January 28 2024
We all approach a new year differently. Some look at it as a continuation of our past efforts, building on the previous year or maintaining what worked. Others see it as a chance for a fresh start, a new beginning.
However you look at it, a new year brings both new challenges and new opportunities. As many of you have likely heard, California is facing a challenging year on several fronts. We have a projected budget shortfall of over $38 billion. Later this year, crucial elections at both the state and national levels will test our priorities and require all of us to stand up for the issues we hold most important. We are once again receiving less rainfall in many parts of the state, while others are inundated with flooding. And communities across the state will continue to experience worsening air quality due to extreme weather events such as wildfires and droughts, as well as the continued pollution from oil and gas industries and major corporations throughout California.
Addressing these issues requires all of us to take a long look at where we are, as well as where we are going this year. It’s an opportunity to refocus on the critical priorities that our communities need to weather the coming challenges. We might be in a budget deficit, but that makes it all the more important that we come together to figure out where we can reprioritize funding and fill in the shortfalls to support our communities and conservation efforts. State programs that are already moving forward can build on that momentum, but that must include transparency and accountability in implementation. And all of these challenges highlight the critical need to work with our allies to advocate at and partner with the legislature in finding the correct solutions to the numerous critical issues we face. Here’s a brief look at some of the ways Sierra Club California will accomplish that this year:
Prioritize Funding for Impacted Communities
Sierra Club California and many of our partners in the environmental justice and environmental communities have already raised concerns about the Governor’s current budget proposal. As the budget process moves forward in the coming months, we will continue to advocate for the needs of Californians by tracking where funds are and are not going. It is more important than ever that we support communities facing the greatest impacts from climate change. Investing in public transportation and the electrification of both vehicles and homes is a necessity for improving air quality in the most impacted areas of the state, but we can’t accomplish this if we continue to pour money into outdated infrastructure goals that expand highways and increase road use.
We must also prioritize managing our natural spaces in ways that conserve California’s incredible biodiversity, protect our watersheds and open spaces, and increase access so we all can enjoy the state’s unique beauty for generations to come. It is critical that we continue to invest in programs that will increase our resilience to climate change statewide.
Track Implementation and Improve Accountability at State Agencies
In addition to prioritizing new investments, we need greater accountability and transparency in ongoing programs across the state. If we want to decrease vehicle miles traveled, we can’t accomplish that goal by increasing the road miles available. All agencies must be aligned in combating climate change and equitably supporting communities, and that must include open communication and coordination as well as transparency into how funding and implementation is being prioritized.
Throughout this year, the state will develop the SB100 Joint Agency Report, establishing next steps for California’s progress towards our goal of 100% renewable energy. We must ensure that the state’s efforts support a portfolio of truly green energy resources that prioritize energy democratization, conserve critical habitats, and set California on a path to a more sustainable future. We cannot simply trade one industrialized for-profit energy sector for another.
And connecting it all, we will continue to push to ensure our rivers, streams, and watersheds are conserved and protected for all Californians. We can not continue to pour money and effort into environmentally destructive projects that will undermine ecosystem stability, damage watershed resilience, decrease water security, and charge California’s communities for water they won’t receive.
Amplify These Priorities at the Legislature
Finally, we must tirelessly advocate at the legislature for oversight of current programs, reforms for flawed policies, and new ideas that will set us on a path to a more resilient future. Last year we had more climate champions in the legislature than ever before. This year, we hope to build and expand on that momentum. That includes finding ways to eliminate waste in harmful projects that run counter to our climate and equity goals, and improving investment in the communities and habitats that need it most. California’s legislators will be looking to their constituents to hear what their priorities are this year. It is critical that your voices are heard throughout the halls of the Capitol.
It’s going to be a long year ahead with many challenges to overcome, but California is resilient. I know that our advocates, volunteers, and allies will be working tirelessly to help California find the right path. I’m excited about the possibilities and opportunities for 2024, and look forward to working with all of you to make this year the best yet for the environment in California.
Sierra Club California is the Sacramento-based legislative and regulatory advocacy arm of the 13 California chapters of the Sierra Club.
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