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.
As renowned climate scientist, Johan Rockström, said, “We have underestimated the risks of unleashing irreversible changes where the planet self-amplifies global warming. Scientifically, this provides strong evidence for declaring a state of planetary emergency, to unleash world action that accelerates the path towards a world that can continue evolving on a stable planet.”
The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign translates the latest science, the urgent need for bold action in the face of worsening impacts, and the groundswell of public support into tangible speed and scale greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions.
With your partnership and generosity, we will seize this moment to demonstrate in California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, how to enact the bold policies required by science to reverse the climate crisis, create jobs and secure a healthy, vibrant future for all.
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.
California’s 2018 wildfires, less than half the size of the 2020 conflagrations, cost a staggering $148.5 billion in damages (about two-thirds of California’s pre-COVID 2020 budget), with $27.7 billion (19%) in capital losses, $32.2 billion (22%) in health costs and $88.6 billion (59%) in indirect losses with a majority of those far from the actual wildfire footprint. The 2019 wildfires are estimated to cost $80 billion in losses.
Yet investing $80 billion in clean energy and other climate-friendly businesses in California could produce 725,000 new jobs. And investing in clean energy creates at least twice the jobs as in fossil fuels.
The technology and know-how exist today to equitably address the climate crisis in California. We just lack the political will. Now is the time for major investments to saves lives and dollars in the long term.
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.
As we transition to a clean energy economy globally and in California, we must ensure that workers, their families, and their communities dependent on fossil fuel industries are not left behind. Nations all over the world are starting to address this key issue, foundational to our collective economic and social well-being.
To reach the climate targets necessary for an inhabitable world, well-trained workers will be essential. Significant workforce power will be required to achieve the pace and scale necessary to shift California away from fossil-based technologies. The state must work with employers, labor unions, and other interests to ensure comparable long-term jobs with transferable skills and workforce training for those currently working in the oil and gas sector while preserving healthcare and pension benefits.
Policymakers must prioritize and ensure support for lower-income, Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian communities to achieve these urgent decarbonization goals equitably and rapidly. The state must close the climate gap when enacting climate policies to ensure these communities are no longer disproportionately harmed by the health and economic consequences of fossil fuel development, production, and use.
Toxic oil and gas infrastructure – from freeways to oil rigs–are often sited in communities of color, dangerously close to homes, schools, and hospitals, primarily due to historic redlining and redevelopment. Constantly exposed to polluted air, they suffer from significantly lower life expectancy and higher rates of asthma, cancer, and other diseases than white people and those in wealthier neighborhoods.
Policymakers must also ensure that everyone can participate in the new clean energy economy with equitable access to climate-friendly solutions.
“[Climate-Safe California] is urgent and desperately needed. Also urgent is a just transition and safety net for those working in the fossil fuel industry. We must not leave people behind as seen in the coal industry.” –Carmen Ramirez, Supervisor, Ventura County; Former Mayor, Oxnard
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.
Nationally, President-elect Biden’s climate action plan calls for GHG-free electricity by 2035 as part of a broader plan to put the country on track for net-zero emissions by 2050. The state of Rhode Island has committed to 100% renewable electricity by 2030, fifteen years ahead of current California law. New York’s 100% renewable electricity goal is five years ahead of California’s at 2040. And Hawaii recently declared a state of climate emergency.
California is behind but can, and must, lead again on climate! Once at the forefront of global climate action, the state is banking on outdated policies in the face of an exploding crisis. Current goals of achieving 40% below 1990 levels of GHG emissions and 60% GHG-free electricity by 2030 are inadequate. As bold as the Governor’s call for 100% ZEV sales by 2035 is, it is not enough.
To ensure state policies are commensurate with the rapidly deteriorating climate reality, California must accelerate existing GHG reduction targets. The state must double its ambition to achieve 80% below 1990 levels of GHG emissions and net-negative emissions (sequestration greater than emissions or becoming a net carbon sink), beginning the initial stages of drawdown, by 2030.
We are in a climate emergency. Waiting until 2045 or 2050 is simply too late. The time for bold climate action is now.
“No one can deny the health and safety impacts that our climate-related risks are creating. Having worked as an emergency room nurse, I know that there are some things that you must do immediately to save imperiled lives. We are in a climate emergency that requires immediate and decisive actions to save lives and to protect future generations. We urge Governor Newsom to accelerate climate policy timelines now.” – Barbara Sattler, RN, PhD, FAAN; Professor, Public Health Program University of San Francisco; Board Member, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
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.
“Climate-Safe California can be our reality. It puts people to work by accelerating our renewable energy, energy storage, smart grid, and electric vehicle goals. It can and must be part of a transformation that promotes social and racial justice by investing in our disadvantaged communities.” -Professor Daniel Kammen, UC Berkeley; IPCC Coordinating Lead Author; Former Science Envoy, US State Department
Oil well Remediation
There are 107,000 active and idle onshore oil and gas wells in California, which pose a major public health threat to surrounding communities. Roughly 5,540 of these wells appear to have no responsible owner or operator. As oil and gas extraction winds down in California, even more wells will become idle or abandoned. The estimated cost to plug all active and idle wells in the state currently sits at $9 billion. But the bond amounts that oil and gas well operators are required to pay to remediate expired wells are woefully inadequate.
On September 23, 2021, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 47 into law. The Climate Center was a strong supporter of this bill. Before SB 47, the law prohibited California Geologic Energy Management (CalGEM) from spending more than $3 million in any one fiscal year for purposes related to the clean-up, remediation, and plugging of hazardous or idle-deserted oil and gas wells, and it was set to be reduced to $1 million beginning in fiscal year 2022-23. SB 47 indefinitely raises the cap on spending for these purposes to $5 million per fiscal year.
The Climate Center is exploring policies that will address this issue fully and is evaluating how such policies might advance a just transition by providing oil and gas workers with high road employment restoring the ecological, economic, and public health and safety of regions damaged by decades of oil and gas extraction.
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.
Half of Californians should 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.”
“The science supports the fact that California’s climate crisis is real with dangerous and accelerating impacts on our vulnerable populations. Climate-Safe California offers a powerful solution that will hopefully catalyze similar efforts in other states, the nation, and the world.” -L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, former State Senator
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.”
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.
Earth’s natural systems, such as vegetation, soils, and wetlands, have an immense capacity to draw carbon out of the atmosphere. Scientific studies on total carbon sequestration potential show wide discrepancies due to varying assumptions about political feasibility, sequestration time horizons, soil types, financial challenges, and cultural and institutional barriers. Under optimized policy and management conditions, nature-based sequestration can absorb over one-third of annual current global emissions. This would deliver many co-benefits such as replenished groundwater, drought resilience, flood and heat resilience, greater biodiversity, reduced pollution, improved wellbeing in rural economies, and food and water security. Read more about sequestration in soils here.
Nascent industrial direct air carbon removal technologies may be valuable in another decade or two. Fortunately, we today how to manage natural and agricultural lands for sequestration and its many other advantages. 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.
The Climate Center does not support Carbon Capture and Storage technologies that allow the continuation of fossil fuel production, refinement, and use, and that negatively impact the health of frontline communities. Our strong support for natural carbon sequestration and its many co-benefits does not replace the urgent need for massive GHG reductions as described in Climate-Safe California’s goals but complements it to achieve the beginning of drawdown as soon as possible.
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.
“California must lead the world by achieving the goals of Climate-Safe California. Drawing down the carbon we’ve already put into the atmosphere is central to the State achieving carbon neutrality and net-negative emissions. It is time for the Governor to lead by enacting a comprehensive Executive Order that places carbon sequestration on California’s natural and working lands, at scale, as a centerpiece of our pathway toward a livable and climate-resilient future. Meeting this goal will have cascading beneficial impacts on CA’s communities and vital ecosystems.” – Jeff Creque, Ph.D., and Torri Estrada, Carbon Cycle Institute
Photo: Andrewglaser at English Wikipedia
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.
“Building livable, sustainable, and equitable communities requires accelerating climate policy timelines, state support of local government mitigation and resilience efforts, and engaging local communities. We strongly support the urgent goals of Climate-Safe California. We must act as though our future depends on it. It does.”– Kate Meis, Executive Director, Local Government Commission
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.
Potential funding strategies, that must engage diverse stakeholders in policy development from labor, environmental, and justice to business and local government, include:
- Regulatory changes that open markets so private investments pay for much of what’s needed
- Passenger/parcel fee e.g., $2.4 billion/yr from a $10 per airline passenger x 240 million (# of passengers in 2018 from top 8 CA airports), with exceptions for lower-income travelers
- Green climate bonds and other ballot measures e.g., $30 billion MoveCA 2022 climate ballot measure for transportation and other sectors over 10 years
- Progressive, equitable carbon fees, that do not come at the expense of other vital climate and environmental laws and regulations
- Tax loophole closures & tax code upgrades
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.
With these funds, The Climate Center is working to:
- Secure input on and endorsements for Climate-Safe California
- Build a Climate-Safe California network across diverse sectors and regions of the state and actively engage in climate, environmental, and justice partnerships
- Develop science-based policies and white papers, identifying effective pathways for implementation, including executive orders, agency directives, regulation, and direct legislation
- Lead and support collaborative, innovative, and accelerated climate policy approaches
- Establish a strong presence in Sacramento to ensure that science-based climate science underlies decision making
- Cultivate a powerful new cohort of climate champions in the state legislature
- Help bridge climate action silos
- Mobilize opinion leaders to amplify key messages and influence decision makiers
- Develop, publish and amplify policy white papers and pathways
- 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
- Launch a major strategic communications campaign targeting key audiences through traditional and social media
- Expand organizational capacity to achieve the above, increase fundraising and support partners
The cornerstone of our Climate-Safe campaign is a coalition of powerful climate leaders and activists. Together we will partner with California’s visionary climate decision-makers to enact more aggressive targets and timelines for achieving net-negative GHG emissions and community resilience for all of our communities by 2030, as required by science. Read more about our Theory of Change here.
The policies we advocate for must make it easier for everyone to make climate-friendly choices, from securing 100% renewable energy and replacing natural gas appliances with electric to leasing or buying electric vehicles and/or shifting to more electric, non-GHG-emitting mass transit, e-bikes, and e-scooters, as well as 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. Together we can secure a healthy, vibrant and climate-safe future for all!
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).