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California Lays Out Ambitious Climate Change Budget Plan, Says Trump Administration Isn’t Helping

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a budget proposal on Friday with ambitious goals for addressing climate change — in part because his administration says the Trump White House is not doing enough.

“Unlike the federal government, which is shirking its responsibility to address these issues, California has been and is going to continue to lead,” said Kate Gordon, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and a senior advisor on climate.

The budget proposal, which Newsom introduced during a two-plus hour press conference at the Capitol, argues that California must reduce climate risk while at the same time transitioning to carbon neutrality to “today save lives and dollars tomorrow,” according to the governor.  

His proposal comes as the Legislative Analyst's Officeoutlined this week that “most state agencies are only at the early stages of conducting” climate assessments. The office says these assessments are “a critical first step of a multistep process of planning for climate change and implementing projects and policies to reduce the risks to public safety and welfare.”

The administration is also proposing a $12.5 billion climate budget, which will be rolled out over five years. It includes a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, a new climate resilience bond the governor hopes to put in front of voters this fall and a low-interest loan fund. 

The climate resilience bond would provide $4.75 billion for investments that reduce risks from water, fire, extreme heat and sea level rise. 

Newsom also says the climate budget is part of how the state would fund theCalifornia Green New Deal Act, introduced earlier this week by Democratic Assembly member Rob Bonta of Oakland. 

“Our disadvantaged communities, our communities of color … may have been an afterthought with respect to the fossil fuel economy and the harm it caused for them,” Bonta said. “But they are in front of mind for us as we create solutions.”

The legislation focuses on ambitious climate goals and issues of inequality.

The climate budget also includes $66 million for reducing flood risks, $51 million to speed up the deployment of electric vehicle infrastructure and $103 million for water resiliency.

“This governor's proposal is the most comprehensive and collaborative environmental budget in the state’s history, it’s very significant,” said California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. 

The following are other key environmental issues tackled in Newsom’s budget:

A Climate Bond In Front Of Voters This Fall

The budget proposes a $4.75 billion climate resilience bond, which Newsom hopes to put in front of voters this November. The bond would address risks especially in California’s most vulnerable communities. About 80 percent of the bond would go toward addressing immediate risks like floods, drought and wildfires. The rest would go to long-term challenges such as sea level rise or extreme heat. 

More than 60 percent of the bond focuses on reducing risk to water systems in communities — including funds for sustainable groundwater management, safe drinking water, flood control, the Salton Sea, farm incentives and safe passage for fish in streams and rivers. 

Newsom says that wildfires are a climate change issue. The bond would also allocate $500 million to harden infrastructure in high-fire-risk communities and $250 million for forest health projects — that’s in addition to fuel reduction activities paid for by the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and also the amount that the Legislature and governor have required utilities to contribute. 

The bond would also allocate millions to reduce the risks of sea level rise and extreme heat, and to bolster communities as the climate crisis worsens. 

How To Spend Cap-And-Trade Revenue

The budget proposes a $965 million plan to spend cap-and-trade dollars on things like Cal Fire’s forest health and fuel reduction program, low-income communities and research. 

It also plans on reducing emissions from transportation, which it calls “the largest greenhouse gas emissions source in California.” 

And $230 million is proposed to go to protecting communities from bad air. The budget says there will be a focus on “prioritizing disadvantaged communities and clean mobility options for lower-income households.” 

These cap-and-trade investments are in addition to $1.5 billion provided annually. 

New Money For Climate Projects

New this year, the budget includes $1 billion in general fund dollars — $250 million this year and more in future years — for a Climate Catalyst Fund. (Check out this CalMatters Story explaining more.) This fund will provide low-interest loans for climate-related projects that help the state meet its climate goals and create jobs. 

The projects will focus on reducing transportation emissions through zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure, climate smart agriculture, landowner loans for forest management and recycling.

“The revolving loan fund for climate solutions announced today will help spur innovation and clean energy jobs,” said Victoria Rome, director of California government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But in California, carbon pollution from cars and trucks is a very tough nut to crack and needs particular attention.”

More Investment in Curbing Threat of Wildfire 

With 10 of the most destructive fires happening in California since 2015, the budget includes more than a billion dollars for emergency preparedness and wildfires. It includes 677 positions to be phased in over five years. The goal is to provide Cal Fire more flexibility when fire season peaks. 

“We’ve been taxing our firefighters … the men and women on the frontlines for the last three years have performed, but additional personnel is needed so they can have the backup they need to have adequate rest,” said California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot.

It also creates a Wildfire Forecast and Threat Intelligence Integration Center, which would provide information about wildfire threats to government agencies, create better products to prevent fires, and serve as a hub for forecasting, weather information and threats. This includes $9 million and 22 positions to staff the center. Data collected will be used to develop forecasts about fire weather systems. 

More than $110 million would go to a home-hardening pilot program with a focus on low-income communities in fire zones.  

Green-Friendly Infrastructure Spending

The budget also lays out $53 billion toward infrastructure over five years, with more than 75 percent of the proposed funding going to transportation, which makes up 40 percent of the state's carbon emissions. It also includes investments in housing, water, and energy.

The plan is for state and local governments to “work toward a future” where Californians can “thrive in the face of climate change” while remaining economically stable.

To do this, the administration will lean on the Climate Budget.

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