Addressing Climate Change
As we watch communities destroyed by record-breaking wildfires, wake up to orange skies, and see photo after photo of empty reservoirs, we know that California is at the forefront of the climate crisis. Fortunately, our historic state budget surplus allows us the opportunity to take action.
California recently put a $3.7 billion down payment on both an immediate response to climate change and building longer-term climate resilience. As chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I made sure we prioritized the protection and preservation of the San Francisco Bay and worked closely with Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, who championed this issue through his years of work crafting an environmental protection bond.
We were able to largely fund the bond’s proposed projects. The three-year package includes $611 million to address sea level rise and protect shorelines. The San Francisco Bay contains 77% of the state’s remaining wetlands and 1,000 species of animals, so the budget funds flood protection, bayside access and wetlands preservation projects.
About one-third, or $1.3 billion, of the climate resilience funding will help preserve and restore open space and wildlands, helping us reach the state’s goal of conserving 30% of wildlands and coastal waters by 2030. This includes protecting fish during drought conditions and building wildlife crossings.
Additionally, $800 million will go toward defending against extreme heat by planting trees in urban areas for more shade, improving energy efficiency of low-income multifamily housing, and building community resiliency centers. As we have seen during wildfires, we must ensure that Californians have a place to go to avoid heat, smoke, power outages or other adverse events.
As we work to bring our small businesses back from the pandemic, we are also giving them the resources to go green. Our budget includes $5 million for the California Green Business Program; with 25 years of experience – 10 as an official state program – they helped businesses reduce their environmental footprints. During the pandemic, they helped businesses adapt operations and reopen safely. Our San Francisco Green Business Program has helped businesses pay for non-toxic cleaning products and air filters, and it has helped them save money on their energy bills.
Lastly, just over $900 million will go to regional planning and adaptation projects. The bulk of this funding goes toward the Transformative Climate Communities program to ensure investment provides economic, environmental and public health benefits to our lowest income neighborhoods. The Bay Area has led on developing regional climate plans, and because climate change doesn’t stop at city or county borders, such cooperation serves a model for other collaborations.
I’m extremely proud of our bold plan to protect California’s environment, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. In addition to everything described previously, our budget includes $1.5 billion for wildfire prevention, $4.6 billion for drought response, $1.1 billion for sustainable agriculture, and $3.9 billion for cleaner transportation. However, the state’s policy makers from city councils to Congress must also fight to reduce emissions and slow catastrophic climate change. Our state government cannot do it alone.
Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.