California Launches “Partners Advancing Climate Equity” to Aid Underserved Communities

Program Helps Frontline Communities  Build Capacity to Address Climate Crisis

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Twenty-two leaders representing diverse California communities will spend 2021 as part of the inaugural cohort of the California Strategic Growth Council’s Partners Advancing Climate Equity Program, designed to help communities most impacted by climate change mount an effective, community-driven response. The program was spurred by legislation cosponsored by The Greenlining Institute.

Frontline communities, including low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous peoples, tribal nations and immigrant communities, suffer first and worst from climate impacts. These communities typically have the least capacity or resources necessary to advance local climate action. PACE addresses the need to invest in local leadership and bottoms-up community development, supporting communities to identify their own needs and visions, develop partnerships, build skills, access capacity building and technical assistance resources, develop projects for grant funding and more.

“Greenlining is thrilled to see the PACE program as an outcome of SB 1072, a law we worked hard to pass and a critical step in the right direction of investing directly in community capacity,” said Greenlining Environmental Equity Senior Program Manager Emi Wang. “Too often the communities hit first and worst by climate change have been least able to mount an effective response or even tap into state funding, because they just haven’t had the resources to do it. PACE gives these frontline communities a fair chance.”

Partners Advancing Climate Equity aims to address this gap by building the capacity and technical assistance infrastructure needed in California’s most impacted communities. It will help fill the need for increased training, resources and capacity to strengthen cross-sector partnerships, create data-driven community needs assessments and navigate complex state funding programs, policies and decision-making processes. Administered by SGC, Partners Advancing Climate Equity aims to increase the capacity of local leaders from across California to advance community-driven, equitable climate solutions at the pace and scale demanded by climate change and ongoing racial,social, and environmental inequity.

Partners Advancing Climate Equity program emerged out of SB 1072, 2018 legislation authored by Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) and cosponsored by The Greenlining Institute and the Trust for Public Land. SB 1072 sought to level the playing field so that our most under-resourced communities can effectively pursue local climate action.

The Partners Advancing Climate Equity program consists of two phases: a peer-to-peer learning cohort and place-based technical assistance to support local capacity building around community-identified initiatives. SGC is offering the program in partnership with the Local Government Commission, Climate Resolve, Urban Permaculture Institute, The Greenlining Institute, and Movement Strategy Center. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Justice Grant enables SGC to provide participants with up to $8,000 to support their participation in the program.

The members of the inaugural cohort will work on an array of issues at the intersection of climate and equity, including affordable housing, air quality, youth and resident empowerment, water and wildfire resilience, and urban greening. The cohort primarily comprises individuals working in partnership with broad coalitions or at nonprofit organizations that prioritize and uplift resident-led initiatives.

Recognizing the variety of challenges faced by frontline communities throughout California, the Partners Advancing Climate Equity team prioritized regional diversity within the inaugural cohort. Its members represent coastal and inland Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast, the Sacramento region, the Bay Area, and throughout the North Coast and Sierras. In addition, five members of the PACE cohort represent Tribal governments or indigenous-serving organizations.

The program curriculum advances four primary objectives:

  • Leveraging available resources to advance local climate resilience and social equity priorities;
  • Forming and sustaining cross-sector partnerships that enhance collective impact;
  • Creating data-driven, community-led needs assessments and action plans; and
  • Navigating state funding programs, policies, and resources

During their participation in the program, members of the cohort will develop community-informed needs assessments with a focus on tangible strategies to build long-term capacity with partners.

Follow this link to learn more about the Partners Advancing Climate Equity program and meet the 22 members of the cohort.

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit www.greenlining.org.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
www.greenlining.org
@Greenlining

Guest column: Super Bowl ads, like nature, abhor a vacuum

By Jeremy Bagott
The Florida Times-Union

They once had names like Countrywide, Ameriquest, New Century, Argent and Greenpoint. They’re gone now – wiped cleanly off the map during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. In their place is a stable of largely unregulated online lenders – now fashionably called “fintechs” – toasted as bold disrupters in the “lending space.”

We’ll hear from them as they unveil inventive commercials during Super Bowl LV on Sunday. If you haven’t spent your quarantine under a rock, you’ve no doubt seen their barrage of spots on television.

Super Bowl viewers over the age of 30 will remember Ameriquest. Its name was once everywhere. In 2005, it was on a charm offensive after the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division had brought a case against it for juicing mortgages made to minorities, women and the elderly with special fees and bait-and-switch practices.

Ameriquest, in response, successfully mainstreamed itself, sponsoring the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville featuring Paul McCartney. Who could forget the former Beatle performing “Drive My Car,” “Get Back,” “Live and Let Die” and a rendition of “Hey Jude” that brought the entire stadium to its feet singing “Na Na Na Na-na-na-na”?

More than a dozen years after a cataclysmic crisis took the global financial system to the edge, these new nonbanks, again backstopped by the politics-infused mortgage amalgams Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the U.S. Federal Housing Administration, are bringing dreams to life. And why not? Home equity in America is up $6 trillion from 2010, according to data provider CoreLogic.

But a remark by former Fed chief Alan Greenspan continues to haunt. In June 2007, when the financial crisis was but a pimple on King Mammon’s backside, the former Fed chairman worried aloud about “a very large number of small institutions, some on the margin of scrupulousness and very hard to detect when they are doing something wrong.”

During the bubble, the former nonbanks – later reduced to a collection of heads on skewers – managed to create a shadow banking system that resulted in a trillion dollars of empty, commission-driven economic activity that simply exacted fees, cashed out home equity and transferred risk to Wall Street banks (and then to the U.S. taxpayer, as we found out in late 2008).

In 2005, Ameriquest also sprinkled wads of cash into the sticky fingers of the Rolling Stones, sponsoring the U.S. leg of the band’s world tour. A year earlier, it had locked up the naming rights to the Texas Rangers’ ballpark for $75 million, dubbing it “Ameriquest Field.” It sponsored NASCAR drivers and it commissioned two airships and then dispatched them to sporting events across the country.

In allegations of targeting black and Hispanic Americans, along with the elderly, Ameriquest was hardly alone. After the financial crisis, the Justice Department levied big fines against the defunct lender Countrywide’s new owner, Bank of America, over 10,000 toxic subprime mortgages, claiming Countrywide’s black customers were more than twice as likely to get a subprime loan than similar white borrowers, even though their finances would have qualified them for prime rates.

The now-bankrupt New Century was also thought to have been among the most notorious predatory lenders of the era.

Fast-forward to 2020. The Greenlining Institute, an Oakland, California-based nonprofit, has sent up a warning flare. It found that the eight largest nonbank mortgage lenders in California had loaned disproportionately to black and Hispanic home buyers when compared with top banks in the state. There are many open questions about this finding.

The resurgence of nonbanks comes amid a push to delegitimize bank appraisers – through claims of systemic racism or simply by pointing out that human appraisers can make errors or sometimes disagree on the value of a property used as collateral. (Full disclosure: The writer is a licensed appraiser.)

To “solve” this problem, efforts are afoot for the wider adoption of so-called “black box appraisals” – computer models and algorithms that remove humans from the valuation of the collateral. This harkens to the disastrous computer models developed by the Big Three credit-rating agencies during the run-up to the financial crisis that awarded triple-A ratings to junk-quality securities.

As they say in Papua, New Guinea, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – The more things change, the more they stay the same. As will be witnessed on Super Bowl Sunday, mortgage finance, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

Jeremy Bagott is author of “The Ichthyologist’s Guide to the Subprime Meltdown.”

Black Leaders: Biden Order is first to recognize America’s history of housing injustice

By Quincy LeGardye
California Black Media

Black Leaders and civil rights groups – including the NAACP and the Greenlining Institute — are hailing a memorandum President Joe Biden issued last week directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to “take actions to undo historic patterns of segregation and other types of housing discrimination that afford access to long denied opportunities.”

The directive is based on an executive order the President of the United States signed on Jan. 27. It launched a package of White House actions crafted to promote equity that also includes ending the federal use of private prisons.

In the Presidential Memorandum directed to HUD, President Biden publicly acknowledged that in the 20th century, U.S. federal, state and local governments “systematically implemented” discriminatory housing policies and supported discrimination in housing and mortgage lending. The memo also outlined the wide-reaching effects of racial housing discrimination, which includes the racial gap in homeownership, persistent undervaluation of homes owned by people of color and a disproportionate amount of pollution and exposure to climate change in communities of color.

According to an analysis of the order by the Urban Institute, the memorandum is the first time a president has explicitly recognized the federal government’s culpability in housing injustice.

“The Federal Government must recognize and acknowledge its role in systematically declining to invest in communities of color and preventing residents of those communities from accessing the same services and resources as their white counterparts,” the memorandum reads.

California’s Black communities have long experienced the effects racial housing discrimination and they continue to feel that pinch. According to a 2015 report by the California Budget and Policy Center, a nonpartisan research firm, people of color made up more than two thirds of Californians with unaffordable housing costs, with unaffordable costs defined as spending over 30 % of household income on housing. This report found that 6.6 % of Californians with unaffordable housing costs are Black, despite Black Californians counting for about 6.5 percent of the state’s total population. Also, according to a 2019 HUD report, nearly 40 % of California’s homeless population is Black.

Debra Gore-Mann, president and CEO of the Oakland-based Greenlining Institute, told California Black Media, “American housing policy has been steeped in racial animus from the National Housing Act of 1934 that created the FHA — which explicitly promoted redlining — all the way to the subprime mortgage crisis that blew up from 2007 to 2010.

“Today, communities of color teeter on the brink of eviction and foreclosure,” Gore-Mann continued. “President Biden’s order on redressing this nation’s history of housing discrimination and his call to Congress to pass protections and financial relief for Americans at risk of losing their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic are important and come at a critical time.”

The memorandum’s specific directives are aimed at two rules that were weakened or relaxed under the Trump administration: one governs how cities assess and enforce efforts to reduce segregation, and the other combats discrimination in rental housing and mortgage lending. Biden also ordered incoming Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge to take the necessary steps to align HUD’s policies with the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

During her confirmation hearing Jan. 28, Fudge, a previous chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and former mayor of Warrensville Heights, a majority-Black suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, committed to the Biden administration’s priorities of expanding the Black homeownership rate and breaking down barriers to building new apartment buildings.

“It bears mentioning, particularly in this moment of crisis, that HUD — perhaps more than any other department — exists to serve the most vulnerable people in America,” Fudge said in her prepared remarks. “That mandate matters a great deal to me. It is consistent with my own values, and it is precisely what has always motivated me to service.”

Several civil rights groups and housing activists are applauding the memorandum as an important first step in combating a legacy of housing discrimination. It comes after four years of the Trump administration either ignoring or taking steps to weaken fair housing protections, they say, and amid a national pandemic that is hitting communities of color hardest.

“We are gratified by today’s Memorandum reaffirming the federal government’s role in ensuring fair and equitable housing policies. We welcome the prioritization of this essential federal role in advancing equity and look forward to working to reverse the devastating practices undertaken by HUD during the Trump Administration, and to advancing a bold, progressive vision of fair housing,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

However, these same civil rights and housing groups are emphasizing the fact that communities impacted by housing discrimination, especially Black communities, need help in the form of concrete action. Some concrete actions that the federal government could take to redress housing discrimination include confronting forms of discrimination in today’s housing market, such as realtor and landlord practices, and supporting homeownership for communities of color, according to the Urban Institute.

“This open dialogue represents a big first step, but it’s just the first step on our way to a just recovery. We must demand new policies to remedy and make right this longstanding, unfair economic burden on too many Americans. We do not need more analysis, assessments nor this too familiar call to action by Congress. We, the public, must clearly demand proactive, concrete actions performed intentionally and consciously to build a clear pathway for communities of color to build real prosperity,” said Gore-Mann.

Environment Experts To Newsom: Now’s Your Moment

By Ezra David Romero
CapRadio

Back in September, while wildfires raged and the pandemic wore on, California Gov. Gavin Newsom held a virtual press conference to announce a bold new climate goal. By 2035, he said, all new cars and trucks sold in California would be zero-emission, in order to seriously curtail climate warming-emissions.

“We are marking a new course, we are setting a new marker,” Newsom told a camera while standing in front of a few electric cars at Cal Expo in Sacramento. California is poised to lead the rest of the world in the “collective cause” of mitigating climate change, Newsom declared.

“That really was very important,” said Dan Sperling, founding director of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. “A lot of other countries are now imitating that target,”

But while Newsom has grabbed attention for his clean car policy — so far, he’s not earned a broader reputation as an environmental champion.

In fact, two years into his administration, environmental experts say he hasn’t moved boldly enough on ecological issues — either because he’s distracted by other emergencies, or because he’s been playing political defense. They say now is his moment to change his strategy.

“He has been a disappointment,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, adding that his words and actions have been inconsistent. “Initially he wasn’t talking about climate change at all, then he started talking about it, then he had to deal with all the fires.”

Newsom’s administration has made headway on moving away from fossil fuels — namely by creating policy on zero-emission vehicles and charging infrastructure. His administration has also been busy filing lawsuits to prevent Trump era environmental rollbacks, such as protections for migratory birds.

But the environmental community says with other distractions out of the way, now is Newsom’s time to take swift action on climate change and alleviate the burden on communities dealing with air and water pollution.

Phillips says Newsom’s administration shouldn’t be a replay of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tenure, which was noted for a more cautious, step-by-step policy making approach.

“Incrementalism isn’t the thing they want,” Phillips said about the environmental advocacy community, adding that young people want change and clear air. “They want to stop worrying about what the future is going to bring in terms of climate change.”

Climate Work

A month after issuing the executive order about zero-emission vehicles, Newsom called for a different kind of climate policy — conservation of 30% of state lands and waters by 2030. The goal is to protect species and preserve ecosystems that are vital to controlling carbon emissions. The governor envisions carbon sequestration projects on farms and other landscapes as a major part of preventing the climate crisis from worsening.

“California’s beautiful, natural and working lands are an important tool to help slow and avert catastrophic climate change,” Newsom said in October.

All these steps are important for meeting the state’s climate goals of getting 5 million zero-emission vehicles on roads by 2030 and reaching carbon neutrality by 2045. Both goals were previously set by the Brown Administration.

But where advocates say Newsom falls short is envisioning a future less dependent on fossil fuels, says Deborah Sivas, an attorney with the Stanford University Environmental Law Clinic.

“The oil and gas side is his real Achilles heel, because there’s been several thousand new oil and gas permits issued during his tenure,” she said about Newsom. “It feels a little bit schizophrenic to be promoting these really ambitious climate goals, and yet still facilitating and supporting new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Sivas says Newsom has the authority to phase out fossil fuels faster — although he’d likely be sued for trying — but it’s not a battle he wants to take on.

But Kate Gordon, the governor’s senior climate advisor, says Newsom’s administration is exploring strategies to reduce petroleum production that won’t leave California’s oil industry workers in the lurch. She says the idea is to not replicate the unjust transition the timber industry experienced as it began to decline in the 1990s.

“We can see the writing on the wall,” said Gordon. “The industry is changing, crude oil demand is way down … We have time to think ahead about who’s at the table. That didn’t happen with the timber industry.”

Newsom’s team is currently trying to prevent a retreat of the state’s previous environmental work by waging numerous lawsuits against the Trump administration, said Richard Frank with UC Davis’ Environmental Law and Policy Center. Many of the rollbacks would make it tough for California to meet its climate goals.

When the Trump Administration prevented California from setting stringent emissions standards on passenger cars and trucks, Newsom’s team found a workaround, by negotiating and working directly with automakers to get them to create cars and trucks with better fuel standards.

Frank argues that Newsom would have made more progress on environmental policy if he hadn’t had to play defense with the Trump Administration.

“I don’t begrudge or criticize the governor in the slightest for his attention being diverted to the attempted Trump Administration rollbacks,” said Frank. “With an incoming Biden administration, hopefully, we’ll have a far more collaborative federal state relationship and that in turn should free up Governor Newsom’s opportunity to play offense.”

Wildfire

Last year’s record-setting wildfire season was also a major distraction for Newsom, although he did help create a new relationship with the federal government to try to mitigate fire risk. The goal of the federal-state agreement is to thin or burn 1 million acres of forests yearly by 2025.

In his most recent budget, Newsom also proposed to spend a billion dollars on prescribed burns and forest thinning. While that amount of money is a first for fire prevention, says UC Berkeley Forestry Advisor William Stewart, it still doesn’t go far enough because of the vast and expensive nature of fire mitigation needs.

“We may need to do something different than kind of the small scale projects that we historically know how to do,” he said. “There needs to be some people with kind of a skunkworks approach. Can we look at doing this a different way?”

Bills in the U.S. Congress and the state legislature may help increase funding for prescribed burns, and Stewart hopes that the Biden Administration will be more active in managing public lands. He says a change in mindset on the federal level could impact California because more than 50% of public land is managed by the federal government.

“[Fires are] mainly starting on federal lands, that’s what’s burning,” he said. “There was just no chance to actually have a coherent discussion with the federal government when Trump was in power.”

He says Newsom now has an opportunity to change the fire conversation with the Biden Administration.

Water

Newsom has made a number of moves to manage the state’s water problems, such as droughts, floods, declining fish populations and an over-reliance on groundwater.

Last summer, the governor issued a water resilience portfolio that outlines 142 state actions to help the state deal with water as the climate crisis worsens. It includes measures to protect drinking water, groundwater and fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. (Read more about the plan here.)

“It will protect the water supply for essentially two-thirds of Californians from the very real risk of earthquakes, more extreme floods, prolonged droughts and sea level rise,” said Michael Quigley, co-chair of Californians for Water Security, about the governor’s plan.

The roadmap supports the idea of a tunnel construction project that would carry water from Northern California to the southern parts of the state. The idea has been lauded by farmers.

But creating this $17 billion one-tunnel project doesn’t sit well with environmental groups like Sierra Club California, which has asked the administration to come up with alternatives.

“His administration has shown a level of naivete about water policy in the state and that’s sort of jaw dropping,” said Phillips, the group’s director, adding that the new plan is very similar to a two-tunnel project touted by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“They continue to believe that this project that was first proposed in the 1940s will still satisfy California’s water needs, even as we face a critical climate crisis that’s changing the way water flows.”

Frank, with the UC Davis Environmental Law and Policy Center, says Newsom needs to focus on preserving the future supply of groundwater, not just give it “the proverbial nod and a wink.”

The governor’s administration needs to find “a new way of doing business that makes our groundwater aquifer sustainable over the long term,” he said.

Frank said if precipitation patterns don’t shift this winter, the state could soon enter another multi-year drought, just years after exiting the last one. That’s just another reason Newsom should take a serious look at groundwater reserves, he said.

“It’s out of sight out of mind until there’s a major water shortage,” Frank said.

Newsom’s Opportunity

Advocates and policy experts are keenly interested in what Newsom can do going forward, under the new Biden administration.

On the climate front, advocates like Alvaro Sanchez of the Greenlining Institute want the governor to “set a date” to phase out fossil fuels, starting with an extraction method called fracking. In September, Newsom asked the legislature to come up with a plan to phase out the practice.

“That’s ultimately what’s going to be needed to be successful in the climate,” said Sanchez, environmental equity director for the Institute. “Until we do so, we’re just gonna be extending the life cycle of something that we know is cancerous to our lives.”

Sanchez says tackling fossil fuels more aggressively would expedite the state’s progress on climate goals, and improve everyday living conditions for Californians in polluted parts of the state.

He also says Newsom and other California lawmakers need to take more seriously the negative health outcomes that polluted air and water has on disenfranchised communities.

“There are communities in California that have not been seen by our climate policy,” he said. “Believe what folks are saying and … really incorporate what they are asking for into our actual strategies.”

With a new presidential administration focused on equity and climate change, Sanchez says the cap is now lifted off the governor. He says now is the time for Newsom to  meet the moment and be bold on the environment.

Newsom budget hurts environmental justice programs

By Jackie Blandon
48hills

Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2021 budget proposes shifting money from environmental equity programs to fire prevention, a move that has angered advocates.

As Greenlining Institute, CEO Debra Gore-Mann said, “Funding for wildfires should come from the utilities whose recklessness led to so many problems, so that we can maximize funds needed to fight pollution and build resilience in low-income communities of color.”

Each year California sets a new reduced limit or “cap” on statewide emissions that the state will allow to be produced, with each allowance making up one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (using the 100-year global warming potential). These allowances are then auctioned off to garner funds for various California Climate Investment Programs. In short as the California Air Resources Board writes, “It complements other measures to ensure that California cost-effectively meets its goals for GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions reductions.”

But as Gore-Mann and Environmental Equity Director Alvaro Sanchez pointed out, Newsom’s proposed state budget lets utilities, such as PG&E, off the hook for funding wildfire prevention and recovery from wildfires, and puts the burden on the state. That means that equity-designed programs don’t get the funding they need to continue functioning — ultimately disproportionately affecting low-income communities and communities of color.

“The governor’s budget and the governor himself will often speak about equity and a California for all,” noted Sanchez, but “the programs that have the most equity design to them don’t seem to be getting the resources and funding.”

He specifically pointed to programs such as Transformative Climate Communities and the Regional Climate Collaboratives which were created by SB 1072 — a bill that created a national model for prioritizing investments in “communities most impacted by pollution and poverty and most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.” It attempts to address the challenges as well as the already existing community action groups that exist within these communities as it attempts to address the issues of climate change.

Programs like the AB 617 or the Community Air Protection Program, which was signed into action by Governor Jerry Brown in 2017 and focuses on reducing exposure in communities most impacted by air pollution, are also put at risk by budget cuts.

“The problem is many communities don’t have the necessities to pursue grants that would help them,” Sanchez said. “The impact (of the loss of climate program funding) is seen in those communities but could be unseen by everybody else.”

That means residents of cities like San Francisco, who have the infrastructure and resources already in place, will see less of the effects of climate change and air pollution directly, while other communities with less resources and infrastructure won’t be so lucky.

The word “equity” is being thrown around to make the state and governor look better but not followed through to help the communities who need it most.

Newsom’s proposed 2021-2022 budget, in its Climate Change Action portion “proposes an additional $1 billion to support a coordinated forest health and fire prevention strategy that maximizes technology and science-based approaches to protect state forestlands.” There’s also “$323 million for early action in the spring to start these forest health and fire prevention projects before the next fire season.”

It “proposes a $1.5 billion comprehensive strategy to achieve the state’s zero-emission vehicle goals by 2035 and 2045.” While it’s focused on larger scale actions to help mitigate climate change within the state, it underfunds programs in frontline communities.

Sanchez noted that, “As we recover from the COVID crisis and the economic crisis, we need to address overall inequities.” During 2020, many Californians were forced to go into poverty or further into poverty due to a lack of jobs and federal funding for unemployment benefits, while large corporations and business owners were able to profit off of the pandemic because of federal funding and tax breaks. The same communities who were disproportionately affected by COVID and consequent economic crises are the same communities that will feel the effects of climate change and air pollution more directly.

But for real change to happen, Sanchez said a few things need to be addressed directly. The first is a reform of how the cap-and-trade funds are distributed, as well as revisiting the program design as a whole.

The program seeks to do environmental good, but the state has a responsibility “to make sure frontline communities aren’t being overly impacted,” Sanchez said.

And the state needs to address whether these communities can get the necessary funding for programs aimed at curbing the effects of climate change, and whether we “can get equity more right, past just clean air.”

He said the state needs to hold utilities and other large corporations accountable for reinvesting in communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change.

Following the Nov. 2018 Camp Fire, the Oct. 2019 Kincade Fire, and the orange skies and record breaking heatwaves of Aug. and Sept. 2020 — Newsom and California lawmakers need to address the key issues surrounding the effects of climate change and statewide socioeconomic inequity now before fire season has the opportunity to further devastate those hardest hit by the COVID economic crisis.

New Report: Green Investments Don’t Always Reach Where They’re Needed

The Greenlining Institute Urges Financial Firms to Consciously Address Communities of Color 

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Investment in green technologies, clean energy and climate adaptation continues to grow, and financial institutions are taking an increasing interest in this field. But many of these investments never reach communities of color and low and moderate income communities that are most in need of both the environmental and economic benefits of such investments, a new report from The Greenlining Institute finds.

“Lots of money is going into clean energy and other green technologies and programs, but far too few of those dollars reach the communities that need them most,” said report co-author Rawan Elhalaby, Greenlining’s Senior Economic Equity Program Manager.

The report, Investing in Climate Equity, looks at how banks and financial institutions presently support green investments in low and moderate income communities and communities of color, and what might be gained by incorporating green investments into the Community Reinvestment Act

It also considers how local and state governments have incentivized investments by financial institutions in green technologies in underserved communities and how such investments can translate into wealth and asset building opportunities for these communities. Finally, it makes recommendations for banks and community development financial institutions, urging them to be bolder and more specific about using green investments to help communities of color become healthier, more sustainable and more prosperous, and proposes regulatory changes to help make this happen.

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit www.greenlining.org.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
www.greenlining.org
@Greenlining

Gov. Newsom’s $227 Billion Spending Plan Includes Stimulus Cash, Rental Relief, Job Training, and More

By Tanu Henry
California Black Media

Gov. Gavin Newsom sounded upbeat when he announced at a press briefing Friday afternoon that he has submitted a $227 billion budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year to the State Legislature for approval.

The spending plan reflects a brighter picture than the gloomier one Newsom presented last summer when he projected a steep budget shortfall of more than $50 billion. In this proposal, the governor’s office is estimating that there will be a budget surplus of about $15 billion over the 2020-21 fiscal year, with nearly $3 billion stashed in the state’s operating reserve.

“In these darkest moments of the COVID-19 pandemic, this budget will help Californians with urgent action to address our immediate challenges and build towards our recovery,” said Newsom. “As always, our Budget is built on our core California values of inclusion, economic growth and a brighter future for all.”

The proposal includes significant investments intended to shore up and revive the state economy battered by the COVID-19 global pandemic. It proposes $2.4 billion for a one-time payout of $600 per individual from the “Golden State Stimulus” fund for the lowest earning Californians, many of them essential workers, who have been hit hardest by the global health crisis and the economic dip it caused. The majority of workers that have been affected are African American, Hispanic or from other ethnic groups in California and across the country.

To ensure a swift economic recovery, the governor has allocated $372 million to facilitate the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines across the state.

Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Los Angeles), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus and the only African American lawmaker in the upper house of the California legislature, says he is pleased that the governor’s budget invests in equity. He told CBM that he will work with the governor’s office to make sure the proposals in the plan, particularly the relief for businesses, benefit Black Californians.

“Governor Newsom’s 2021-2022 budget proposal reflects what we are all hoping: that things are getting back on track and in a better way. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate California, but thanks to the swift actions taken last year by the Legislature and the Governor, we are in a strong position to combat this crisis and rebuild our economy,” Bradford said

“We do not want to go back to where we were. We want a more just economy moving forward,” the senator added.

Workers at hospitals, grocery store clerks, public transportation operators and more had to continue showing up to work through the most difficult and uncertain phases of the pandemic last year. And entrepreneurs like barbers and beauticians and workers in retail, food and beverage service, hospitality and the leisure sectors suffered the most job losses. Newsom announced $777.5 billion in his budget for economic recovery, including assistance to businesses of all sizes – more than $500 million will go to small businesses — and money to support the state’s minimum wage increase to $14.

Bradford, who is also chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, applauded Gov Newsom for including funding for improving prisons and criminal justice reform efforts.

“As Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, I am also pleased to see funding for the maintenance of California state prisons, Los Angeles County, use of force investigations by the Department of Justice, and rehabilitation and educational programs for our inmate population,” he said. “Following the work I began in 2018 with the California Cannabis Equity Act, I am delighted to see the permanent funding of the state’s local equity grant program, which is a momentous step toward a fair and equitable cannabis market.”

The money for COVID economic recovery comes at a time when there looms the threat of another economic downturn. According to numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor Friday, payrolls across the country decreased by 140,000 jobs in December. It is the sharpest drop in jobs since last April. The economy has not fully bounced back since the beginning of the pandemic last march when it lost 22.2 million jobs. Only 12.4 million jobs have been recovered so far.

Although the governor’s budget projects optimism, and it provides substantial funding for critical ongoing government priorities like education, transportation public safety, higher education, health care and green initiatives, it is short on details. It does however include a clear high-level breakdown of where the money

will be spent – if not exactly how. For example, Gov. Newsom calls for $2 billion to help schools across the state to reopen in the next couple of months. The budget also allots $85.8 billion for schools, which includes teacher training, early childhood education programs, teacher recruitment and money to extend learning into the summer. The governor is also proposing that the state invests $500 million in low-cost housing tax credits; $1.75 billion to continue purchasing motels to house the homeless under “Project Room Key;” and $353 million for job training and creation programs.

Over the next 5 months, Gov. Newsom says he and the Legislature will be working to hash out, distill and define budget priorities. Through the process, they will determine how and at which level of government – state, county or municipal – the monies will be spent. Then in May, he will present his revised, and more detailed, budget to the legislature for final approval before the fiscal year begins in July.

Senate Republicans say over 19,000 small businesses in the state have had to shutter since the pandemic began. Therefore, they are urging the governor to increase funding for them.

“Over the past ten months, the Governor’s shutdowns and COVID-19 challenges have made it difficult for millions of Californians,” said Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) and Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) in a statement responding to the governor’s budget.

Some environmental groups complained that the budget redirects cash to emergency preparedness, “short-changing” programs that provide funding to underserved communities, some of them places where Black Californians live.

“The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund is meant to cut pollution in our most impacted communities,” said CEO Debra Gore-Mann, president of the Greenlighting Institute, a public policy and research organization based in Oakland. “Funding for wildfires should come from the utilities whose recklessness led to so many problems.

Gov. Newsom says now that he has presented his budget, the hard work begins.

“The Budget makes progress towards the goal I set when taking office to harness California’s spirit of innovation and resilience and put the California Dream within reach of more Californians,” Gov. Newsom said.

 

Newsom Budget Proposal Short-Changes Environmental Equity Programs

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Gov. Newsom’s proposed 2021-22 California budget short-changes programs financed by the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund that reduce pollution and boost the economies of underserved communities, The Greenlining Institute said today.

“The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund is meant to cut pollution and greenhouse gases in our must impacted communities,” said Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debvra Gore-Mann. “Funding for wildfires should come from the utilities whose recklessness led to so many problems, so that we can maximize funds needed to fight pollution and build resilience in low-income communities of color.”

Sanchez noted that while some of the expenditures listed in the Cap and Trade Expenditure Plan include important funding for programs with strong equity design and implementation like Clean Cars for All, it also continues to prioritize funding for AB 617 implementation, which needs fundamental, equity-centered improvements in order to better meet community needs — including emission reductions that are accountable to community priorities. “Real equity addresses the community’s priorities, driven by the needs of those in the most polluted and underserved neighborhoods,” said Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity Director Alvaro Sanchez. “California has great programs designed to do that, like Transformative Climate Communities and the Regional Climate Collaboratives created by SB 1072, but those programs get no money at all in this proposal.”

While the proposed budget includes important investments in broadband, housing, clean transportation and relief for families and small businesses, including $575 million in much-needed aid for small businesses and nonprofits, gaps remain. For example, critical investments are still needed to eliminate growing utility debt for low-income families, Gore-Mann said. “These important programs should be funded by taxing California’s growing population of billionaires.”

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit www.greenlining.org.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
www.greenlining.org
@Greenlining

Greenlining Institute Congratulates Georgia Winners, Urges Bold Agenda

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute congratulated Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff today on their victories in Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoff elections. Greenlining President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann made the following statement:

“We congratulate senators-elect Warnock and Ossoff on the confidence Georgians have shown in them. The election of Georgia’s first-ever Black U.S. senator, the pastor of Martin Luther King’s church, is a truly historic moment, and politicians of all parties should note the decisive role played by voters of color and by Black, Latino and Asian American movement organizers.

“Without the constraints of divided government, this is the time for the Biden-Harris administration and congressional leaders to think big. America can now enact a bold, courageous agenda, an agenda that starts with a real plan to end the pandemic and provide ongoing relief to struggling families and small businesses, but also goes much farther.

“We need strong, decisive action to protect democracy, fight systemic racism, end economic inequality and harness the fight against climate change to build a prosperous, healthy and just economy. The needs have never been greater, but neither has the opportunity. President-elect Biden and congressional leaders must seize this moment, reject half-measures and achieve change on an audacious scale.”

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit www.greenlining.org.

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 THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
www.greenlining.org
@Greenlining

Was 2020 The Year That EVs Hit it Big? Almost, But Not Quite

By Nicholas Kusnetz
Inside Climate News

In the energy world, 2020 was both unsettling and exciting, a year when the coronavirus pandemic drove billions of people to change their patterns of driving, flying and public transportation use, just as an unprecedented transition away from fossil fuels was gaining speed. Oil markets cratered, but clean energy appeared to emerge unscathed, if not stronger.

For electric vehicles, the year paired a steady stream of boosterish headlines with largely stagnant growth, at least in the United States, an almost-but-not-quite year that some analysts say finally may have primed the market to take off.

“I would maybe characterize 2020 as, we were putting in place the final piece of the foundation before the really breakthrough year in 2021,” said Katherine Stainken, policy director for Plug In America, an advocacy group that calls itself the voice of electric vehicle drivers.

This year saw an acceleration in pledges by governments to ban vehicles that run on fossil fuels. In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed an executive order setting a goal to end sales of pollution-spewing light-duty vehicles by 2035. In November, the United Kingdom said it was advancing its timetable for phasing out sales of most fossil-fueled cars to 2030, from 2040. And this month, Japanese media reported that the government might ban sales of most gasoline cars by the mid-2030s.

At the same time, several major automakers ramped up their plans to shift away from the internal combustion engine. Last month, after debuting an electric Hummer, General Motors said it would spend $27 billion to offer 30 electric models globally by 2025. Also in November, Volkswagen’s chief executive, Herbert Diess, said the company was retooling factories and accelerating its move towards electric and self-driving vehicles as part of a “race with Tesla.” VW also began offering a mass-market electric SUV, the ID.4.

Smaller, all-electric automakers like Rivian and Lucid Motors raised billions of dollars and hit manufacturing milestones. And Tesla’s stock soared, catapulting its market value to $600 billion from less than $100 billion in January, and making its founder and chief executive Elon Musk one of the world’s richest people.

Last week, President-elect Joe Biden said he would nominate Jennifer Granholm, the former Michigan governor who has ties to the auto industry and has been a prominent advocate for clean energy, to be the next Energy Secretary. The position will allow her to help speed a transition to electric vehicles through the department’s loan programs and research and development budget.

Yet sales of electric vehicles—or EVs—declined over the first nine months of 2020 in the United States, part of a broader market slump tied to the pandemic, according to Atlas EV Hub. Electric cars made up only about 2 percent of new passenger vehicle sales—a figure that has remained static for several years—with Tesla accounting for two-thirds of all EV sales over the first nine months of the year.

Some experts point to Tesla’s vertiginous rise as a sign of things to come.

“This is kind of the year that Tesla really came into its own,” said Joel Levin, Plug In America’s executive director.

David Reichmuth, a senior engineer with the Clean Transportation Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Tesla showed other automakers that people will buy electric vehicles, as long as they are marketed in the right way.

“I always thought about it as some of the traditional car makers trying to convince you to buy this car even though it’s an EV,” he said, “whereas Tesla was very much in the mode of, ‘You need to buy this car because it’s an EV.” Now, he said, GM, Volkswagen and other companies are playing catch-up.

And there have been signs in recent months that the EV market may be picking up. Global sales of EVs and plug-in hybrid electric cars grew by nearly 130 percent in October from a year earlier, with some of the fastest growth coming in Europe, where EVs are expected to reach nearly 10 percent of new auto sales this year, according to Raymond James, a financial services company.

“The EV boom that we’ve seen in the last five months is striking,” said Pavel Molchanov, a clean energy analyst with Raymond James. “It is phenomenally strong.”

Still, Molchanov said that growth has been slower than automakers had expected, and that the global market share remains small. The ultimate goal is to wean drivers off of oil, and by that measure, there’s a long way to go. Molchanov’s research suggests that by 2025, EVs will displace less than two percent of global oil demand.

Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific, a research firm, said we haven’t yet hit the tipping point to an electric future.

“It’s going to take more automakers jumping on it as well before we have the critical mass to say, ‘OK, this is the moment in which the industry really started shifting towards full electrification,’” he said. “I’m not sure we’re quite there yet, but with GM’s announcements this year, certainly we’ve made a huge step in that direction.”

A Case of Range Anxiety

Of the barriers to the widespread adoption of EVs, perhaps the biggest is also the most obvious: There just aren’t many for sale in the United States, and most of those that are remain expensive and limited in number, largely restricting ownership to wealthier buyers.

And although less expensive models are on the way, they’ll need somewhere to charge when they arrive. Without that, consumers may suffer from what industry analysts wearing psychoanalytic hats have dubbed “range anxiety”: The fear of being unable to take that cross-country road trip lest one find oneself stranded by the side of the road somewhere, plug in hand, without a charger in sight.

According to data compiled by the Department of Energy, there are only about 28,500 publicly available charging stations across the country, and they’re clustered in states with more electric vehicles. While that number needs to grow dramatically, experts say it’s hard to predict by exactly how much, and that the nation’s network of gas stations is a poor analogy because the vast majority of charging will be done at home.

More than 60 percent of Americans have garages or carports where they could plug in their EVs. And cross-country road trips—and even somewhat shorter, multi-state drives—represent only a tiny portion of miles driven. A national charging network would fill in the gap exposed by that small portion of long-range trips, and by the minority of people who can’t charge at home, many of whom may have lower incomes. In other words, the nation needs a network of many chargers that won’t actually get much use, said Costa Samaras, an associate professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who works on energy and climate change.

“It makes it hard to be profitable,” he said. “Some companies have figured this out, but many have not.”

Most chargers are owned by a variety of businesses looking for a new revenue stream—shopping malls, garages, restaurant chains and hotels, according to data from Raymond James. Some companies, including Tesla, have built their own networks to quell range anxiety and lure buyers, but they don’t necessarily expect to make money from the chargers, Samaras said.

He added, “There’s probably going to need to be a continued investment by the government to make sure there’s enough charging stations around not just for people who can’t get home with enough charge, but for people who don’t have access to a place to charge at home. So it’s an equity issue, and it’s a range anxiety issue.”

The Zero Emission Transportation Association, a newly formed industry coalition that includes electric vehicle manufacturers, utilities, battery makers and other companies involved in the EV supply chain, plans to ask the federal government to spend $30 billion over a decade on charging infrastructure, said Joe Britton, the group’s executive director. President-elect Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal includes a plan to help build 500,000 charging stations across the country. Britton said that’s likely to be only a start.

Levin, with Plug In America, agreed that the country needs a huge investment in chargers, but said, “I don’t think that charging is the fundamental problem right now.”

He added, “I think the biggest barrier is that a lot of people look at the vehicles they like to drive, and then they look at what’s available in EVs, and they’re like, ’Oh, the kind of car I like to drive, they don’t make it as an EV, or they may make it, but I can only get it in California, I can’t get it here.’ So the supply of vehicles at a reasonable price is a big barrier.”

Cost Still a Prohibitive Factor

A transition to electrified transport stands to provide enormous benefits to low-income communities and people of color, who are more likely to be exposed to higher levels of pollution from cars and trucks.

report by the Union of Concerned Scientists last year found that communities of color in the Northeast breathed in 66 percent more pollution from vehicles than white communities. So progress on electric vehicles often translates into progress on environmental justice, said Leslie Aguayo, environmental equity program manager at the Greenlining Institute, a nonprofit in Oakland, California, that works for racial and economic justice.

“There’s a perception that EVs are for the rich, for the white, are mostly folks driving their Teslas,” she said.

In many ways, though, that perception reflects reality. Electric vehicles remain significantly more expensive than their conventional cousins. The federal government provides a tax credit of up to $7,500 to make up the difference in cost, but the incentive is skewed towards higher earners: Not only are buyers required to pay in full up-front, but they need to owe at least $7,500 in federal income tax in order to take full advantage of the credit. It is also limited by how many vehicles a manufacturer has sold, and has already been phased out for Tesla and GM.

California has an income-based credit program, but Aguayo said the relatively high caps mean that much of the funding has gone toward middle-class people buying expensive cars. And again, because it is structured as a rebate, she said, rather than a grant, it generally excludes people who don’t have enough money to pay the full sticker price up front. Charging also remains a significant barrier for low-income communities. People who live in apartment buildings are unlikely to have a way to charge their car at home.

“Historically, these kinds of new technologies have not thought about people of color, have not thought about low-income folks in their design processes,” Aguayo said. “What we started to notice was that there were not a lot of folks of color, not a lot of folks that were low-income in these conversations.”

The Greenlining Institute has an “equity toolkit” that highlights barriers and opportunities for policymakers to ensure that people in low-income communities can have access to EVs, including how to structure incentive programs. But Aguayo added that any set of policies to build out an equitable electric vehicle network has to go beyond credits for purchasing new cars and include programs to expand electric buses, car sharing and electric scooters and bicycles. One study, by researchers at the University of California, Davis, for example, found that electrifying the fleets of companies like Uber and Lyft can have three-times the emissions-cutting benefits of replacing the average private car, because of how many miles the ride-sharing cars drive.

New Opportunities

The announcements by California and the United Kingdom that they will phase out new gasoline and diesel cars are in line with broader climate goals of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. An estimate by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that California’s goal would likely push the state’s light-duty fleet to be more than 90 percent emissions-free by 2050. That would require EVs to make up a significant portion of new sales within just a few years.

China has not yet announced a plan to phase out conventional vehicles, but the country dominates the global EV market. China accounted for about half of all light-duty EV sales in each of the last several years, and 95 percent of electric bus sales, according to data collected by Raymond James; the city of Shenzhen alone has more electric buses than all other countries combined. Six of the top 20 best-selling EV models this year are Chinese.

Stainken, of Plug In America, is optimistic that federal lawmakers and the incoming Biden administration will recognize the opportunity presented by electric vehicles for economic recovery packages. New factories are ready to start churning out EVs, several of them in Republican-leaning states. New charging stations would be a natural fit for a major infrastructure bill. Stainken and Levin said the biggest difference between Europe, where sales took off this year, and the United States, where they didn’t, is policy, and that the biggest obstacle to better policy was the Trump administration.

Biden’s clean energy platform contains several proposals to speed adoption of electric vehicles, including “a major federal commitment to purchase clean vehicles for federal, state, tribal, postal, and local fleets,” rebates for people to trade-in older and less efficient vehicles, public infrastructure investments and a goal to make all new American-built buses emissions-free by 2030.

Samaras, of Carnegie Mellon, said there’s no time to waste.

“It is correct to be excited and it is correct to be optimistic,” he said, “but we also have to be real and think about how far we are from where we need to get to and what else still needs to get done to get us there,” including policies and incentives that not only encourage a switch to electric vehicles but also encourage people to get out of cars altogether by choosing to walk, bike or use public transportation.

He added, “My summary of this space is, we’re going to need everything.”

Dan Gearino contributed to this article.