Put climate on the ballot in November


POSTED 04.02.2024, Capitol Weekly

OPINION – California is staring down a state budget crisis and a climate emergency. Both require solutions, not one at the expense of the other.

Tough decisions lay ahead for California’s leaders, but placing a robust and equitable climate bond on the November ballot is an urgent, logical choice.

Climate change has clear causes and proven solutions but California’s investments in them are inadequate. Unless we square our investment with the scope of the challenge, the lives we build face dire but preventable risk.

The signs are all around us. Wildfires are bigger and more dangerous than ever, darkening skies with toxic smoke. Our safety, access to clean water, and ability to produce healthy food are threatened by weather unpredictably cycling between drought and floods. Extreme heat waves are the deadliest of natural disasters.

All of these risks will get more frequent, intense, and destructive unless we act now.

Why a robust climate bond? The science is clear: this decade provides our best chance to ensure a better climate future for our kids. A robust bond will help ensure communities have resources they need now to face growing climate threats to our health, lives, and jobs.

Why an equitable climate bond? Climate change widens divides in our society. The polluters causing it often operate in low-income communities of color and climate risks disproportionately harm those most vulnerable. Workers on construction sites and farms face heat and wildfire smoke exposure risks at jobs they can’t afford to lose. Older housing stock, inadequate in-home cooling, and lack of shade trees intensifies heat in homes and communities where lower income people live.

Two years ago, California’s leaders committed $54 billion in new state funding alongside a suite of climate policies. However, last year’s state budget cut and delayed this funding. And, in January, Governor Newsom proposed even more cuts and delays to address the state budget deficit. While we urge lawmakers to resist these cuts and keep prior commitments, a bond offers a complementary, urgently-needed opportunity to fund climate action.

We joined more than 150 organizations across California in calling on the governor and legislative leaders to back $10 billion in priority climate investments. These priorities focus on the people and natural resources most impacted by climate change. We must protect Californians from extreme heat, dangerous weather events, and catastrophic wildfires; preserve clean air and water access, and healthy forests; and collaborate with farmers and communities to protect groundwater and keep working lands productive.

We must also build a more equitable future, proposing over 40 percent of bond funds to support climate priorities identified by people and communities most affected by poverty and pollution. Many communities and households still need water and wastewater infrastructure to protect water access and quality, critical community resilience centers for shelter and resources during climate emergencies, and simple home energy upgrades to reduce climate emissions and address extreme heat exposure risks.

The decisions we make now to invest in climate action will determine whether we preserve a safe, healthy future for all and landscapes found nowhere else or slide into irreversible damage to our health, economy, and way of life. Voters deserve a say on this existential question.

California must maintain its climate credibility. We have long set the standard for climate action, exporting our policies to the world. If California can’t fund climate action as the world’s fourth largest economy, who can?

Climate deniers and big polluters are rooting for us to fail. We can’t give in and allow our ambitious climate goals to become big empty promises.

Now is our best shot to prevent a climate catastrophe and we are quickly running out of time. We must pursue every option. A bond will help us save the California we love for the children we love. That means our leaders must step up and put a robust and equitable climate bond on the November ballot.

Katelyn Roedner Sutter is California State Director for Environmental Defense Fund. Phoebe Seaton is Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director for Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

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