TransForum Blog
by Shannon Tracey

California is at it again – leading the nation and now the world. This time we are showing leadership on tackling our two greatest crises together: combatting the climate crisis, and doing so in a way that helps our most vulnerable communities.

The state is starting to make huge investments in faster bus service, more affordable homes near transit, more efficient water pumps, healthier forests, and more – all through a massive new funding structure called the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) aimed at reducing our state’s climate pollution. Unique to California, the GGRF also prioritizes funding for projects that make our communities healthier, more resilient in the face of climate change, and more economically vibrant. But most Californians won’t immediately see the impact from those billions of dollars of climate funds, even as they are poised to transform our state’s future.

This lack of awareness could become a big problem.  Last year, polluters waged a wicked misinformation campaign with the goal of weakening the climate program.  While that effort was defeated, we know they’ll be back.

We need to shine a light on these investments so Californians can understand and appreciate how important these investments are.  Neighboring states and other countries will also be looking towards California’s program.  So we’re going to put them on the map – literally – with our new Climate Benefits for California campaign.

Climate Benefits for California is a two-part effort to catalogue and communicate the benefits of the state’s efforts to curb climate pollution through the GGRF.

Part one: Visibility and Clarity

First, we’re building a searchable online map that will show every GGRF investment in the state.  With the super-smart mapping wizards at GreenInfo Network, we’ll capture every project that gets GGRF funding and make them easy to find, filter, and review.

The mapping tool will allow anyone – from decisionmakers to reporters to community advocates —  to easily review and analyze climate investments in several ways. You will be able to filter projects and generate custom reports that show all the investments in a particular program, as well as by a particular geography, like your county in State Senate district.

These reports will tally the benefits in terms of dollars invested, emissions reduced, and other metrics, including how projects fulfill the promise of SB 535 to ensure benefits for disadvantaged communities – communities that have historically been denied economic opportunity and a clean, livable environment.    What’s more, we’ll work with some incredible partners – like The Nature Conservancy, Housing California, Californians Against Waste, and the California Climate and Agriculture Network – to provide clarity on how these diverse investments are taking shape.

Part two: Publicize and Mobilize

We want California’s leaders and communities – and interested policy-makers from other states and countries – to see how the funding from cap-and-trade is improving people’s lives, especially in low-income communities and communities of color.

We will publicize! In partnership with the California Delivers coalition and the Greenlining Institute’s UpLiftCA project, we’ll share the stories of real people whose lives are better because of California’s climate program.

We will analyze!  We’ll also use the tool ourselves, to conduct more in-depth analyses and release reports to better understand what’s working well, and where the program could do even more for California’s communities and climate.

We will mobilize!  Together with our allies in the Sustainable Communities for All coalition, we’ll train other stakeholders to use our mapping tool and provide ideas, training, and support so they can help spread the word about California’s climate benefits.

Don’t look now – but climate solutions and decisions are just around the corner

We’ll officially launch our campaign later this month – and it couldn’t come at a better time.  Climate Benefits for California will help us see the impact of the first round of climate investments just as our leaders are considering the future of our climate program.

The Air Resources Board is expected to release their initial thinking about future cap-and-trade investments as early as Friday.  And this summer, the Legislature is considering measures to extend and strengthen our state’s climate program beyond its current sunset in 2020.

Plus, the Governor’s revised budget proposal just called for more than twice the original amount of funds for next year’s GGRF grants.  That would mean $700 million for the things we care about most: public transportation, sustainable communities, and affordable homes near transit.

But seeing is believing – and many of these projects will take a while to implement on the ground.

That’s why Climate Benefits for California is so important to understanding how these investments will begin transforming our communities, and how to continue leveraging these funds to make California more connected, healthy, and fair.

We have a vision of California where walkable neighborhoods with great transportation choices are at the center of our climate strategy.  We are excited to show how California’s climate program is bringing that vision to life.

Bookmark climatebenefitsca.org to see our map when it’s ready – and sign up for updates on Climate Benefits for California to get the latest news about the state’s climate program and sustainable communities.