California Governor Backs Efforts to Boost Climate Change Goals

Governor Gavin Newsom (D) (seen above) signed a series of executive orders on September 20 to expand California’s climate change efforts, including the creation of a “Climate Investment Framework” to leverage the state’s $700 billion retirement pension portfolio to drive investment toward “carbon-neutral technologies.” He also signed legislation that tightens the state’s vehicle emissions standards and establishing the nation’s first “smog check” program for diesel trucks.

Gov. Newsom

“Climate change, for us, is not an abstract. This is not an intellectual exercise for us,” the governor noted in remarks at the Climate Week NYC event on September 23. “[We have] a thousand miles of coast. You talk about sea level rise — for every inch, we lose eight feet of our beach. You talk about two degrees Celsius — that’s fifteen-hundred feet that we lose of our snowpack and our snowline. This is not an abstract issue.”

Gov. Newsom’s remarks came on the heels of three new “vulnerability assessments” compiled and released by the California Department of Transportation identifying how climate change might impact the state highway system in Imperial, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties.

[Caltrans also recently highlighted its year-long effort to replace and repair transportation infrastructure, shore up burn scar areas, and remove thousands of hazardous trees left in the aftermath of the Camp Fire that occurred in northern California late last year.]

As part of the governor’s orders, the California State Transportation Agency is directed to invest its annual portfolio of $5 billion toward construction, operations, and maintenance to help reverse the trend of increased fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the state’s transportation sector.

CalSTA, in consultation with the state’s department of finance, is also directed to focus its transportation investments near housing and on managing congestion through innovative strategies that encourage alternatives to driving.

Photo by Caltrans

On the legislative front, the governor signed SB 210, which will require the California Air Resources Board to develop and implement a heavy-duty inspection and maintenance program for diesel-powered heavy-duty trucks – known as a “smog-check” – with the annual fee for said inspection capped at $30.

He also signed SB 44, which requires CARB to create a comprehensive medium- and heavy-duty vehicle strategy by January to help California meet federal ambient air quality standards. SB 44 also requires CARB to establish goals and spur technology advancements for reducing GHG emissions from the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sectors by 2030 and 2050.

“Our state is proof that you can reach some of the strongest climate goals in the world while also achieving record economic growth,” Gov. Newsom said. “We have to get ahead of this and align our state investments, our purchasing power and our transportation and housing policies to be ready to meet this moment head-on.”

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