California promises to remain a leader in the nation’s fight against climate change in 2020, starting the New Year with the launch of a statewide “Green New Deal.”
About a half dozen lawmakers gathered outside the Capitol building in Sacramento on Monday to unveil far-reaching legislation that seeks to create a thriving carbon-free economy while making sure California’s least fortunate residents benefit from the boom.
It presses for green jobs, affordable health care and debt-free education alongside, of course, a phasing-out of greenhouse gases.
“This is a big, ambitious bill, and it must be,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, the primary author of the proposal, which he dubbed the California Green New Deal. “The danger of the climate crisis is limitless.”
The three-page bill, however, falls short of offering a clear path forward, remaining largely aspirational, and it doesn’t provide funding. Supporters will have to rely on follow-up legislation, which California is sure to have plenty of in 2020, to attain its objectives.
Already this year, lawmakers are talking about pushing ahead with billions of dollars in climate bonds — loans that will help communities prepare for natural disasters driven by global warming.
“In addition to the Green New Deal, we need to ensure that California is responding to the climate risks now at our doorstep — fires, flood, sea level rise — with a comprehensive strategy that is aligned with clear funding,” said Jay Ziegler, policy director of the Nature Conservancy’s California chapter and a supporter of new bonds.
The bond money could help harden neighborhoods against wildfires, for example, or boost water supplies in drought-prone areas. Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, who co-chairs California’s Environmental Legislative Caucus, said he wants to make sure any new spending would prioritize planning, so that communities can be sure they’re moving ahead with the most advantageous resiliency projects.
The specifics of the money remain a long way from being worked out. And even if legislators sign off on the borrowing, voters will have to approve it.
Climate change is likely to underscore several other bills in Sacramento this year. Legislation is almost certain to focus on sorting out insurance for wildfire victims who have lost coverage due to the increasing risk; boosting renewable energy, including offshore wind production and battery storage; and cleaning up the transportation sector, by continuing to encourage public transit and clean vehicles.
“While there might not be a bill that will be the silver bullet, we have the opportunity to do a lot of good to limit global warming pollution,” said Dan Jacobson, state director of the advocacy group Environment California. “We can show the rest of the country and the world how to move off of CO2.”
Backers of the newly proposed Green New Deal said they would do their best to implement the many objectives of the program, which extend from the health-driven goal of increasing access to parks to the social-oriented aim of overcoming institutional racism.
Most fundamentally, though, was reducing California’s carbon footprint.
“There are many things that we work on in Sacramento,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, a co-author of the proposal. “But the truth is that if we don’t get this right, none of the rest will matter.”
Kurtis Alexander is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @kurtisalexander
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