Climate-Safe California is a bold suite of policies to address the climate crisis. It is a unique, urgently needed, and comprehensive campaign that will catalyze similar efforts in other states, the nation, and the world. Read more below and view a recent slide presentation here (PDF, October 13, 2021).
See Los Angeles Times coverage on April 20, 2021 of research that supports the goals of this campaign here and read the key findings of the mentioned report here. Read a recent op-ed by two of the report’s authors here.
Endorse Climate-Safe California here. Endorsing the platform means that you, your business, or your organization generally agree with the overarching goals and concepts. Endorsing does not indicate support for any particular legislation.
Our Climate-Safe California webinar series takes a dive into the science, economics, policy, and technical aspects of our Climate-Safe California platform.
Goal: Net-negative emissions by 2030 in California
Net-negative emissions are achieved when more greenhouse gases are removed from the atmosphere than are emitted into it, as a result of human activities (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
Global warming poses the highest possible stakes, threatening the future of life on Earth. It also offers us the greatest opportunities for creating a positive future for ourselves, our children, and all life.
“We are in climate damn emergency,” Governor Newsom acknowledged in September 2020, amidst record-breaking heat, wildfires, and smoke storms. “Across the entire spectrum, our goals are inadequate. We have to step up our game” and we must “fast-track our efforts.”
We agree. Fortunately, the solutions exist today to reverse the climate crisis. California must retake its climate leadership mantle to serve as a global demonstration project for equitable, job-creating, and climate-friendly solutions accessible to all.
With your support and endorsement of Climate-Safe California, we with dozens of partners will enact by 2025 the bold policies required by science to put California on the path to net-negative emissions by 2030, catalyzing the nation and the world into accelerated climate action.
The latest climate science (here, here, and here) supports what millions of people around the world are experiencing daily: the impacts of climate change are hitting harder and faster than expected, posing grave threats to human health and well-being. Children, the elderly, and people living in lower-income communities, primarily communities of color, are disproportionately affected.
With 9 of 15 global tipping points now active, what we do today can either unleash an inhospitable hothouse Earth or secure a safe climate well into the future. As the science and climate reality demand, our only hope for a vibrant, healthy, and equitable future for all is to enact bold climate policies now, not decades from now.
Economic opportunity in the midst of crisis
The climate crisis is the largest wealth creation opportunity of our lifetimes, according to renewable resource financier Jigar Shah. Despite initially high-price tags, investments made in solving big problems have an outsized positive impact on societies, communities, and individuals because they stimulate the economy by creating new industries and jobs. Think of transportation solutions such as railroads, automobiles, and airlines or communications solutions such as telecommunications and the internet. Market-driven investments in decarbonizing California is already demonstrating positive economic and societal benefits.
The cost of climate inaction significantly dwarfs the investment needed to secure a vibrant, healthy, and safe future.
To achieve the urgent goals of Climate-Safe California, these principles guide our policies, programs, and partnerships:
New scientific findings released almost daily underscore the urgency of climate action at speed and scale now. The climate reality is outpacing outdated policy and science. It’s time for California to ensure that all of its climate initiatives, which touch every sector of society, are regularly updated based on the latest climate science.
California can lead again on climate with bold 2030 targets
California is falling behind other governments in the U.S. and around the world and needs to pull ahead to reclaim its leadership. The Climate Center is working with dozens of partners to enact by 2025 the bold suite of policies required by science that will put California on track to dramatically reduce emissions, start drawdown, and secure resilient communities by 2030, inspiring global action.
World leaders are increasingly recognizing the challenge and opportunity to invest now and are stepping up. Finland has committed to net-zero emissions by 2035 without offsets and Norway is banning the sale of new gas powered cars by 2025. The UK recently announced an increase in its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals to 68% below 1990 levels by 2030 and called for 100% Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) car sales by 2030. In early December 2020, the European Union committed to a 55% reduction from 1990 GHG emissions by 2030. China, India, Japan, and South Korea have all recently set more aggressive decarbonization policies.
Existing state policies call for achieving 80% below 1990 levels of GHGs by 2050 (Governor Schwarzenegger Executive Order S-3-05 2005) and maintaining net-negative emissions after achieving carbon neutrality by no later than 2045 (Governor Jerry Brown Executive Orders B-55-18 2018). The Climate-Safe California campaign calls for an executive order and/or legislation signed into law by no later than 2022 mandating that California accelerate these existing state policy timelines to 2030. Per the increasingly dire warnings of the world’s climate scientists and policy experts, 2050 and 2045 are simply too late. The time is now to put the policies in place that will secure a safe, vibrant future for all.
Reaching 80% below 1990 levels (431 million metric tons -MMT- of CO2e in 2017) equals 86 MMT of CO2e in annual emissions by 2030. With increased investments in nature-based sequestration on natural and working lands starting no later than 2022 (which will also provide numerous other resilience benefits such as water storage, drought, flood and heat reduction, biodiversity, and food security), California can sequester an additional 100+ MMT CO2e annually from the atmosphere by 2030. Combined emissions reductions with sequestration, the state could reach -14 MMT CO2e annually by 2030, starting drawdown as required by the science. Nascent negative emissions technologies could likely scale up by the 2030’s to further increase atmospheric drawdown of GHGs.
Since we cannot address what we don’t measure, we will also work to ensure that state GHG inventories include consumption-based emissions and other out-of-boundary sources no later than 2025.
“The Climate Center’s suite of decarbonization policies are all required to stay below 2°C (3.6°F) warming and avoid dangerous climate chaos. We need aggressive, equitable policies in place now so society can transition to a fossil-fuel-free economy as quickly and safely as possible.” -Carl Mears, PhD, UN climate scientist and member of The Climate Center’s Board of Directors
Below is the framework for the types of policies that must be enacted by no later than 2025 to put California on track for net-negative emissions by 2030, catalyzing the nation and the world into accelerated climate action.
1. Accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuel extraction, refining and processing, and end use.
Secure clean, distributed, resilient energy & storage, and accelerate goals for fossil-free transportation
To secure a safe climate, California must enact policies to rapidly phase out fossil fuels while ensuring a just transition for dependent workers, their families, and their communities to ensure no one is left behind.
Key policies include an immediate halt to new oil and gas drilling and infrastructure development, requiring a one-mile buffer zone around existing oil and gas wells, mandating 100% GHG-free electricity and no new gas-powered vehicle registrations by 2030, regulatory changes that promote distributed and resilient clean energy and storage, and mandates for all-electric buildings with a phase-out of fossil gas.
California must enact legislation soon to begin phasing out fossil fuel-powered vehicles, including cars, trucks, and buses, and ban new gas-powered vehicle registrations starting not later than 2030. Simultaneously, the state should incentivize public-private investments in scaling up electric vehicle infrastructure (e.g., fully funding the CA Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project).
We must also reprioritize transportation investments to support housing near jobs, equity-focused Vehicle Miles Traveled mitigation banks, and other innovative programs that reduce GHG pollution and improve health, especially in disadvantaged communities (ClimateResolve 2018).
Progressive rebates and other equitable incentives for Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) adoption must be dramatically increased to achieve 50% ZEVs in the state by 2025 and 90% by 2030. Fifty percent of remaining fossil fuel-powered vehicles must be phased out by 2030. Read more about clean mobility here.
With buildings accounting for 25% of California’s measured greenhouse gas emissions and our electricity becoming significantly cleaner, we must ensure significantly greater GHG-reduction and efficiency in buildings by 2030. This includes requiring 100% electric appliances in all new buildings by 2023, enacting zero-emissions building codes, and rapidly phasing out “natural gas,” a fossil fuel, of which methane is the main component. Methane is 83 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of warming potential over its 10-20 year life in the atmosphere. Recent studies show that methane emissions from leaks in major cities are double the amount previously thought, that methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction are up to 40% higher than previously thought and that 1/3 of the recent increase in methane emissions globally is due to fracking for methane gas. As Cornell Professor and methane expert Robert Howarth has observed, “reducing methane now can provide an instant way to slow global warming.”
Improve water use and energy efficiency
Moving water around the state of California consumes a huge amount of energy, much of it still derived from fossil fuels. Reducing water use will help us reduce climate pollution and better adapt to the climate impacts that we are already experiencing.
Over the past several decades, many California communities have been able to institute water efficiency and conservation measures to dramatically reduce water use, saving both water and energy while reducing emissions. California can use statewide incentives for water conservation and efficiency to equitably address climate impacts like extreme heat and drought. Priority should be placed on investing in vulnerable communities to improve public health and safety and support vibrant local economies across the state.
At present, agriculture makes up a meaningful portion of total US GHG emissions (about 10%). Agricultural emissions come from soil degradation, animal manure, methane belches from livestock, and farm equipment (which mostly run on fossil fuels). But agriculture is also unique in that it’s one of the only sectors that can go from an emissions source to a sink — with the right policies. The solutions that enhance carbon sequestration apply to agriculture as well as to the way we manage our land and waters more broadly.
Ranchers, farmers, public land and water managers, city managers, and others must be incentivized to implement climate- and eco-friendly habitat and soil protection, management, and restoration on California’s rural and urban lands as well as coastal waters (“blue carbon”) to sequester an additional ~100 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) annually by 2030.
3. Invest in community resilience
New policies should allocate the needed funding to support California’s counties and cities in implementing equitable climate emergency response and preparedness measures (e.g., as part of their General Plan requirements) no later than 2022. Priority focus should initially be on the most vulnerable, lower-income communities. All California jurisdictions should be implementing resiliency efforts by 2025 including resilience centers for heat, smoke, outages, and other threatening events, climate-smart ecosystem management, early warning systems, and comprehensive public education.
In the face of California’s widespread power shutoffs and the rise of dirty fossil-fuel-powered back-up generators due to increases in extreme fire weather, The Climate Center has launched the Community Energy Resilience initiative. The initiative establishes a decentralized power system including community microgrids to serve all Californians —prioritizing low income, high fire risk communities first— with clean, local power, and storage. This system will reduce the number of planned and unplanned outages, ensure that essential health, fire, police, food, water, and other services would remain powered in communities during outages, and enable utilities to better target specific outages from the larger grid.
4. Fund climate action now
Innovative and equitable funding mechanisms must be added to the mix of available options as soon as possible to generate the ~$12-20 billion in public funding needed annually over the next decade for implementing urgently needed solutions while catalyzing significantly more in private sector investments. The California legislature must address this head-on despite the challenges with COVID and budget balancing.
Inaction or delayed action on climate is much more costly in terms of lives and dollars as recent wildfires demonstrate. California’s 2018 fires, less than half the size of the 2020 conflagrations, cost a staggering $149 billion (or 2/3 of the state’s pre-COVID 2020 budget) in direct losses, health costs, and supply chain expenses far beyond the fire footprint. The record-breaking wildfires and smoke storms of 2020 are likely to have cost significantly more to our health, ecosystems, and economy.
Mobilizing for urgent climate action
The Climate-Safe California campaign builds upon The Climate Center‘s key role in facilitating the phenomenal growth of Community Choice Energy agencies (CCAs), locally and publicly managed electricity providers, working with local governments, clean energy businesses, labor, NGOs, and others. CCAs have grown from two in 2014 to 21 today and now serve over 11 million Californians with 88% clean energy, a great example of our mission to enact speed and scale GHG reductions, starting in California.
To fund our multi-pronged Climate-Safe California strategy, The Climate Center is raising $25 million over the next five years. Over $2 million dollars have been secured to date.
Join us on this urgent journey. We must succeed. And with your help, we will.
This suite of climate-safe policies is built around the latest science and rapidly worsening climate reality. They are subject to revision based on new findings and input from a wide range of partners and expert advisers. Please share your feedback and interest in partnering together by emailing us at email@example.com.
Read the draft comprehensive Executive Order that we provided to Governor Newsom in September 2020 based on Climate-Safe California, here.
For a campaign prospectus and budget, please contact jeri[at]theclimatecenter.org.
Climate-safe policies are those that lead to sufficient greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions – both from reducing GHG emissions and from drawing down GHGs from the atmosphere – so that the overall global temperature increase does not exceed, or returns to below, 1.5C warming from pre-industrial levels.
Net-Negative Emissions are achieved when, as a result of human activities, more greenhouse gases are removed from the atmosphere than are emitted into it (per UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC).
Drawdown begins when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. This is the point when we begin the process of stopping further climate change and averting potentially catastrophic warming (per Project Drawdown).