Endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform here and donate to the campaign here

Keynote, The Path to Climate-Safe California video or pdf  NPS Sustainability Summit (April 29, 2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder that we ignore the science at our own peril and early action saves lives. Scientists are increasingly warning that to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change, the world’s governments must implement massive reductions of warming emissions and begin a drawdown of greenhouse gases (GHG) from the atmosphere over the decade ahead. There are dozens of scalable solutions available now to reverse the climate crisis. To avert dire consequences and inspire greater climate action worldwide, California must step up its climate leadership now.

We, therefore, call upon the State of California to enact the following solutions based on the latest science:                     

  • By no later than 2022, commit to accelerating existing state policy timelines to achieve 80% below 1990 levels of GHG emissions and net-negative emissions by 2030
  • Secure a just transition for workers and their families whose livelihoods depend on fossil fuel industries
  • Close the climate gap when enacting climate-safe policies to ensure lower-income communities are no longer disproportionately harmed
  • Enact by 2025 the suite of policies required by science to put us on track for net-negative emissions by 2030
    1. Accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use
    2. Increase carbon sequestration
    3. Invest in community resilience
    4. Generate the funds needed for speed and scale climate action
Climate-Safe California is a powerful solution to the climate crisis. Climate experts have called this a unique, bold, urgently needed and comprehensive campaign that will catalyze similar efforts in other states, the nation, and the world. Read more below and endorse the Climate-Safe California platform here (with detailed science references).

“The climate crisis has arrived and is…more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity (IPCC 2019)…To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live, in ways that improve the vital signs… the prospects will be greatest if decision-makers and all of humanity promptly respond to this warning and declaration of a climate emergency, and act to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home.”

Ripple et. al. World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency, Bioscience, November 2019 (signed by over 11,000 scientists

Climate impacts hitting harder and faster

The latest climate science (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 low-income communities 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.

climate action

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

The Climate Center’s rapid decarbonization campaign translates the urgent need for bold action and the groundswell of public support into actual speed and scale greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions. This campaign is the vehicle for change commensurate with the crisis.

We cannot be content with the progress California has made on climate when everything is at stake. The science is clear, as are the solutions. Just as we made the problem, we can solve it. With your partnership and generosity, we will seize this moment to demonstrate in California, the world’s 5th largest economy, how to enact the bold policies required by science to reverse the climate crisis.

Economic opportunity in the midst of crisis

The climate crisis is the largest wealth creation opportunity our lifetime, 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. We need look no further than the financial impact of California’s 2018 fire season for evidence. With total economic losses predicted at $400 billion, it is on track to be the most expensive natural disaster in the history of the U.S.

Secure a just transition for workers and close the climate-gap for lower-income communities

As we transition to a clean energy economy globally and in California, we must ensure that workers and communities dependent on fossil fuel industries are not left behind. Nations all over the world are starting to address this key issue to our collective economic and social well-being.

California must also prioritize and support lower-income communities in achieving these rapid decarbonization goals. We must close the climate gap when enacting climate policies to ensure lower-income communities are no longer disproportionately harmed by the health and economic consequences of fossil fuel development, production, and use. We must also ensure that everyone is able to participate in the clean energy economy.

Climate-Safe California 

The Climate Center is working with dozens of partners to seize this moment and enact by 2025 the bold policies required by science that will put California on track for a climate-safe future by 2030. We define Climate-Safe California as having reached net-negative emissions (sequestration greater than emissions or becoming a net carbon sink), achieving initial stages of drawdown. The chart below shows what is needed to achieve a Climate-Safe California by 2030.

Our overarching goal is for California to commit to 80% below 1990 levels of GHG emissions and net-negative emissions by 2030, accelerating timelines for existing state policies. The charts below show where we have been and possible scenarios for achieving our urgent 2030 goal.


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.


Note: 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.

“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 

Who are we?

The Climate Center, founded in 2001, works to rapidly reduce greenhouse gases at scale, starting in California. We are building a powerful and growing coalition of climate advocates, from clean energy businesses and local governments to nonprofits and community groups as well as individuals, driving policy change at the state level in California, and serving as a model for other states and countries. We are building upon The Climate Center‘s key role in facilitating the phenomenal growth of Community Choice Energy agencies (CCAs) over the past few years–from two in 2015 to 20 CCAs today serving over 11 million Californians with 88% clean energy.

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.

How will we reach net-negative emissions by 2030 as the latest science requires?

The following suite of policies is a sampling of what will be required to realize the urgently needed Climate-Safe California goal.

1. Accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use 

1a. Secure clean, distributed, resilient energy & storage

To secure a safe climate, California must have policies in place by 2025 to achieve 100% GHG-free energy by 2030, starting with an immediate halt to new oil and gas drilling and infrastructure development. California must also achieve rapid increases in distributed energy and storage, as well as a phase-out of all fossil fuel subsidies, production, and refining.

1b. Significantly increase sustainable mobility 

California must pass legislation by no later than 2025 to begin phasing out fossil fuel-powered vehicles, including cars, trucks, and buses. 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 incentives for Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) adoption must be increased by 2023 to achieve 50% ZEV cars (7+ million) in the state by 2025 and 90% by 2030. Fifty percent of remaining fossil fuel-powered vehicles must be phased out by 2030.

Half of Californians will be incentivized to get out of their cars for local travel, thanks to major new investments in clean energy transit expansion, including zero-emissions buses, trains, e-bikes and e-scooters by 2030. Per a recent study, “Regulating land use, shifting transportation spending, removing barriers to implementing road pricing policies, and altering standards for environmental impact analysis can more effectively reduce transportation-sector GHG emissions and mitigate climate change.”

1c. Electrify buildings

With buildings accounting for 25% of California’s measured greenhouse gas emissions and our electricity becoming significantly cleaner, we must electrify all new and remodeled buildings while enhancing the efficiency of all existing buildings by 2030. This includes enacting zero-emissions building codes and rapidly phasing out “natural” or methane gas. Methane is 83 times more powerful of a warming compound 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 observed, “reducing methane now can provide an instant way to slow global warming.”

2. Increase sequestration 

Ranchers, farmers, public lands managers, and other ecosystem managers must be incentivized to implement climate-friendly habitat and soil restoration on California’s rural and urban lands as well as coastal waters (“blue carbon”) to sequester from 100 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide equivalents annually by 2030, if we start now. This would deliver additional benefits such as replenished groundwater, flood protection, drought resilience, greater biodiversity, reduced pollution, increased food production, and reduced pollution.

carbon sequestration in soilsNascent industrial carbon removal technologies will likely be valuable down the road but we already know how to manage natural and agricultural lands for sequestration today. Carbon sequestration on natural and working lands has also been identified by the California Air Resources Board as a priority pathway for greenhouse gas reductions. Equally important is protecting existing carbon stocks in soil, vegetation and the ocean.

Working with nature using climate-friendly management and restoration practices—such as on agricultural soils as well as in forests, mountain meadows, streamside habitats, tidal marsh, seagrass beds, kelp forests and our own backyards– we can store planet-heating gases from the atmosphere for long periods of time while also providing many other benefits.

Implementing bold and equitable policies that will catalyze carbon sequestration through building healthy soils and restoring healthy habitats will be key to achieving net negative emissions by 2030.

3. Invest in community resilience

New legislation should allocate the needed funding and support to California’s counties and cities to develop and implement 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 implementing climate-smart ecosystem management, early warning systems, evacuation centers, 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 Advanced Community Energy (ACE) initiative. ACE 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.

ACE creates an equitable statewide framework for designing and implementing local clean energy systems to also achieve widespread decarbonization of buildings and transportation. To fully implement community microgrids statewide, our goal is to transform state regulatory policies and institutions by 2022 so that thousands of small-scale distributed energy producers can be compensated for providing local services. We will need market signals, starting with increased state funding, to implement community microgrids at scale. New legislation will also advance novel performance-based metrics for utilities, enabling them to fully support ACE programs in partnership with a range of stakeholders, including lower-income neighborhoods, clean energy developers, and technology companies.

There are two new bills in the California legislature that are key to furthering these goals: the Community Energy Resilience Planning Act (SB1314 introduced by State Senator Bill Dodd) and a bill for utility reform to transition to an open-access, distributed energy system that allows local governments and others to participate in energy purchase and sales (SB1240 introduced by State Senator Nancy Skinner).  

4. Generate the funds needed for speed and scale climate action

New climate action financing mechanisms must be added to the mix of available options by 2025 to generate upwards of $20 billion annually for implementing these urgently needed climate policies. These include establishing and implementing a frequent flyer fee per passenger from all California airports by 2025. Initial calculations show that there were 240 million passengers at California’s top 8 airports in 2018. If each were charged a $10 Climate-Safe California fee, the state could raise $2.4 billion annually to invest in reversing the climate crisis.

In addition, other funding sources are needed such as a progressive carbon fee and dividend, that charges at the source of greenhouse gas emissions and returns a portion of the funds to taxpayers.

This suite of climate-safe policies is built around the latest science and climate reality. They are subject to revision based on new science and input from our expert advisers.

“We don’t want to push the ‘on’ buttons of runaway global warming. The next decade is our window…with consequences for all future generations.”

– Johan Rockström, PhD, Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research, December 2019, and co-author, Lenton et al. Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against: The growing threat of abrupt and irreversible climate changes must compel political and economic action on emissions. Nature, November 2019

Mobilizing for urgent climate action 

The Climate Center is hiring expert staff and consultants, and leveraging the expertise of our partner organizations to plan and implement the following activities that are essential to our success:green landscape

  • Establish a statewide Climate-Safe California Partnership and an expanded collaborator network to ensure participation from and in key urban and rural regions of the state
  • Develop science-based policies for each of our strategic objectives and identify effective pathways for implementation, including executive orders, agency directives, regulation, and direct legislation
  • Establish a strong legislative advocacy presence, both professional and grassroots, in Sacramento to ensure that speed and scale solutions to global warming are represented in relevant conversations and legislation
  • Identify and build relationships with climate opinion leaders as well as other influencers in the state; work with them to leverage outreach and persuasion efforts
  • Mobilize and engage communities through house meetings and social media in districts of state lawmakers who chair key committees and hold leadership positions
  • Launch a major strategic communications campaign targeting key audiences through traditional and social media
  • Increase our development and fundraising efforts to reach like-minded high-net-worth individuals and foundations

The cornerstone of our rapid decarbonization campaign is a coalition of powerful climate leaders and activists. Together we will push California to enact much more aggressive goals and timelines for achieving net negative greenhouse gas emissions (sequestered greenhouse gas exceeds emissions) and community resilience by 2030, as required by the science. Read more about our Theory of Change here.

The policies we will advocate for also must make it easier for everyone to make climate-friendly choices, from purchasing 100% renewable energy and replacing natural gas appliances with electric to leasing or buying electric vehicles and/or using more mass transit, e-bikes and e-scooters, and eating locally, regeneratively grown food. Achieving our goals will require rapid and far-reaching transformations in nearly every aspect of California life: energy, industry, buildings, transport, land use, and urban planning.

To fund our multi-pronged Climate-Safe California strategy, The Climate Center is raising $25 million over the next five years, starting with securing $2 million by summer 2020. Over half a million dollars have been secured to date.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented action

Global warming is an emergency with the highest possible stakes: the future of life on Earth. The gradual progress that has characterized the climate movement to date is woefully inadequate and we are running out of time to avoid long-lasting or irreversible impacts.

Starting now, not decades from now, solving the climate crisis must be the top global priority with every government, organization, business, community, and individual. The time is right for more aggressive climate action in California, serving as an example to inspire and move the world.

With your support and endorsement of our Climate-Safe California rapid decarbonization campaign, The Climate Center will seize this moment to collaboratively enact by 2025 the bold policies required by science to put California, and the world, on the path to a safe climate by 2030.

Join us on this urgent journey. We must succeed. And with your help, we will.

Endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform here with the full platform and detailed science references here (pdf).

Please share your feedback and interest in partnering together by emailing us at climatesafe@theclimatecenter.org.

For a campaign prospectus and budget, please contact Karenb @ theclimatecenter.org.


* Per the latest climate science, we must accelerate timelines of existing California policies to achieve 80% below 1990 levels by 2030 and achieve sequestration greater than emissions or net-negative emissions by no later than 2030. We will need to continue emissions reductions and sequestration increases beyond 2030. See our detailed Climate-Safe California Platform with dozens of recent science references for more information.