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Guest Essay: Calif. Climate Action Budget must double

As a Californian who has experienced crushing heat waves, public safety power shut-offs, and wildfire evacuations, I am hopeful that California lawmakers will prioritize funding to build safer and more resilient communities in the face of worsening climate impacts. However, it will require a deeper commitment than the recently proposed state budget allows.

In the wake of Governor Newsom’s revised FY 21-22 state budget proposal, The Climate Center – which I co-founded in 2001 – is urging state leaders to double investments in emission reductions and nature-based sequestration programs annually. Governor Newsom proposed spending $11 billion on climate-related programs over several years. It’s a vital down payment, but only roughly half of the investment needed each year.

With a massive budget surplus and the final budget approval required by June 15, there is still an opportunity for the budget to more closely match the amount needed to address the climate crisis we are all watching unfold.

Importantly, this cannot be a one-time investment. Sustained, significant annual investments for the next decade are required for any hope of securing a climate-safe future. If we hesitate, the costs of inaction and delay will continue to spiral, with dire consequences for us all, but especially our frontline communities.

Recent climate catastrophes, such as the 2018 wildfires, cost upward of $150 billion dollars in capital losses, health costs and indirect economic impacts. Major investments now will save untold lives, property and dollars in the future.

The Climate Center recommends prioritizing the following areas:

  • Add funding for community energy resilience planning and expansion of the California Energy Commission’s Advanced Energy Communities program, investing in clean energy resilience rather than polluting diesel generators that exacerbate the problem.

  • Increase funding for the development of community resilience hubs prioritizing lower income communities.

  • Increase funding for clean mobility from EV infrastructure to reviving clean mass transit.

  • Increase funding for scaling up carbon sequestration on natural and working lands, from croplands and rangelands to forests, creekside habitat and coast wetlands.

As noted in a recent report, “Accelerating the timeline for climate action in California,” climate change is occurring at a faster, more destructive rate than previously understood which demands California take much more aggressive action:

  • Global climate is projected to pass the 1.5° C threshold of dangerous warming as early as 2030, more than a decade earlier than the UN reported in 2018.

  • California is already in the early stages of a multi-decade drought made severe by climate change, threatening dust bowl conditions. Earlier this week, the Newsom Administration announced that 41 California counties are now under a drought state of emergency.

  • Aggressive emissions reduction targets are achievable and acting now at the scale required will create hundreds of thousands of new climate-friendly jobs while saving dollars, property and lives, benefiting especially frontline communities.

  • There is a pathway forward that will reassert California’s climate leadership and help build California’s economy while also increasing resilience. Achieving this pathway will require a significantly greater ongoing financial commitment by the state to sustained climate action.

With sufficient investment, California can regain its leadership in climate action and set an example for the U.S and the world in addressing the climate crisis.

Let’s get to work.

Ann Hancock founded The Climate Center in 2001. She has been a key leader in the rapid growth of Community Choice Energy that now serves over 11 million Californians with 88% clean energy. Ann plays a key role in securing partnerships to implement policies to catalyze drawdown of emissions in California. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Health Administration and Planning from the University of California, Berkeley.

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