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Danielle Bell


Ten years of California Climate Investments reveals essential lessons on investing in lasting and transformative community-led solutions to climate change

The groundbreaking report finds that CCI investments were most successful when programs prioritized equity, centered frontline communities, and were responsive to the environmental justice ecosystem

Contact: Danielle Bell, Senior Program Manager for Media Relations,

Oakland, California – As national and state leaders invest billions to combat the worsening climate crisis, The Greenlining Institute and USC’s Equity Research Institute announce the release of our latest report, “A Call to Invest in Community Power: Lessons from 10 Years of California Climate Investments for the State and the Nation.” 

California piloted a climate funding initiative ten years ago with an intentional emphasis on equity: California Climate Investments. CCI is the nation’s longest running portfolio of climate investments, consisting of over 70 different programs implemented by over 20 different state agencies. CCI programs are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while producing environmental, economic, and health benefits. As of November 2022, more than $9.3 billion for projects have been implemented in communities throughout California, with as much or more left to implement.

The report highlights long-standing research that demonstrates the relationship between climate change and racial inequity, emphasizing how historically marginalized communities, particularly Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities, bear the brunt of environmental degradation and climate impacts. Through a comprehensive analysis of CCI over the past decade, the report found CCI aspects that are excellent with regard to equity, areas where delivering on equity can be improved, and places where the promise of equity has been derailed. 

The report shows that a key ingredient to CCI’s successes is the ongoing contributions of the environmental justice power-building ecosystem which continuously works to advocate for, monitor, shape, and steer public investments towards communities with greatest needs. 

Key findings include:

CCI delivered on its promise to ensure more than a third of the initiative’s resources and investments go to places with the highest environmental burdens as well as low-income communities.

  • The majority of implemented CCI dollars (73% of the $9.2 billion implemented) are landing in, and providing some benefits to Priority Populations—Disadvantaged Communities, low-income communities, and low-income households
  • Disadvantaged Communities have received over $4.2 billion (nearly 47% of the $9.2 billion implemented)

CCI includes programs that deliver on the promise of equity as well as areas where improvements are needed or where equity has not been achieved

  • Most CCI funding is going towards investment types identified as helpful and desired by interviewed Environmental Justice advocates and leaders, such as clean transportation, affordable housing, urban greening, air quality, solar, and water infrastructure.
  • The “felt impact” of investments—the visibility and perceived usefulness and impact of investments to local people—appears strongest when projects are community-driven and well-coordinated (e.g., programs such as Transformative Climate Communities, Community Solar, and Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities).

“Communities on the frontlines of climate change are leading the way–but they can’t do this work alone,” said Alvaro Sanchez, Vice President at The Greenlining Institute. “We have the ability and the resources to build resilience in these communities most vulnerable to climate impacts, we just need to make sure those resources reach those who need them most. This report shows us the path forward: when there is strong community power and voice, we win.”

As federal agencies and states across the country ramp up climate investments, including the Biden Administration’s historic Justice40 initiative which aims to invest 40% of billions of federal funds in priority communities, the lessons gleaned from CCI offer invaluable insights into effective strategies for advancing equity and avoiding pitfalls.

“Our report highlights that good policy matters. It also highlights the critical contributions of power-building organizations who have done the heavy lifting to make real the promises of equity. While it might appear that their work is better funded than ever, we actually need to double down on supporting environmental justice organizations as they do the hard work of competing for and implementing historic sums of federal – and state – dollars. CCI has given these organizations in California some practice, and now is the time to implement those learning and those resources,” said Dr. Manuel Pastor, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at USC.

Ultimately, the report offers lessons for stakeholders for creating and implementing equity-focused climate investments and shows that it is possible to both slow the progression of climate change, while addressing deeply rooted inequity that threatens communities of color and the possibility of a more just and prosperous society. 

Key principles to inform future equity-focused climate investments include:

  1. Equity goals matter and must be paired with clear requirements, trackability, and accountability to yield measurable results. 
  2. Climate investments produce the most visible, felt impacts when projects are community-driven or have significant community buy-in and involvement. 
  3. Climate investments are not neutral. Harmful investments—particularly those that perpetuate fossil fuel infrastructure, false solutions, worsen local pollution, or create harms globally—must be identified and corrected, or defunded. 
  4. For equity outcomes, community and EJ groups must have structural influence over climate investments that go beyond engagement
  5. Ongoing support from the state and philanthropy is needed to ensure communities can easily access and utilize public climate dollars, and build longer term capacity. 
  6. Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities relate to climate investments in their own ways—and investments must tailor support to respect the unique context of these communities. 
  7. The ecosystem for climate justice has and will continue to make climate investments more equitable and impactful for communities through power-building, advocacy, community engagement, and project implementation. 
  8. Complete data that incorporates community knowledge alongside quantitative statistics is essential for determining and tracking equity outcomes. 
  9. The next evolution of climate investment programs can build on previous improvements by producing deeper economic benefits and building long-term capacity and power. 
  10. In many places, including California, the immense scale of need in pollution-burdened communities likely requires deeper, more reliable funding towards climate justice solutions.

To access the abridged report and specific recommendations for the California Legislature and state agencies, the Biden Administration and the White House Council on Environmental Equity, and Philanthropy, please visit our website