By Jennifer Haley and Micah Weinberg
Originally published in Capitol Weekly June 9, 2021.
We do not have to sacrifice our prosperity to achieve California’s climate goals. Quite the opposite is true.
To put California on an equitable and prosperous path to a carbon neutral economy, Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing a $750 million Community Economic Resilience Fund. California needs this robust investment program to act with the urgency and intention necessary to execute on a successful net zero transition.
This investment will be the catalyst to achieving California’s bold climate goals in a way that generates economic growth and inclusivity. It will empower regions to capitalize on their unique strengths recognizing that California is not a one size fits all state and never has been. And it will create a space for regional stakeholders to collaborate, centering the voices of under-served communities that too often do not have a meaningful seat at the economic planning table.
Getting this right is critical to current and future generations of Californians, particularly communities of color who have not always had equal opportunities to build wealth and often are disproportionately impacted by poor air quality.
We won’t achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 without these regional collaborative processes that recognize and build on existing industries, regional diversity, and the current and emerging workforce. The Fund responds to this call. Each of the state’s unique regions will be able to develop meaningful and workable climate solutions while also addressing their specific challenges associated with a high road transition centered on quality jobs and a sustainable environment. The result: a healthier climate and greater economic prosperity.
Look at what’s happening in Kern County. The “Better Bakersfield and Boundless Kern” (B3K) Initiative is bringing together diverse stakeholders from government, community, business, and education groups to capitalize on economic opportunities identified in a regional assessment by the Brookings Institution. While prioritizing regional equity, economic prosperity and quality job creation, B3K will also develop and execute on a roadmap to net zero and affordable reliable energy for all.
Kern County has unique strengths as the leading oil and renewable energy producer in the state, an agricultural powerhouse and a region with geophysical advantages for carbon capture and sequestration. This region can be a model proving that traditional industry sectors can reinvent themselves in a climate-friendly and economically powerful way.
The B3K effort grew out of California Forward’s Regions Rise Together strategy sessions conducted in partnership with the governor’s Office of Planning and Research and the Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). And there are many other similar comprehensive regional efforts underway including the Fresno DRIVE Initiative, Inland Empire Growth & Opportunity (IEGO), Regions Rise Together: Salinas, and Envision Tahoe. These efforts are being convened by members of the California Stewardship Network, a set of regional leaders committed to equitable and sustainable development.
The Community Economic Resilience Fund will supercharge these efforts. It will drive locally tailored planning and locally driven implementation of clear roadmaps toward carbon neutrality that prioritize and create accessible, high-quality jobs in future-looking industries like renewable energy. Supporting regional economies’ transitions to meet a climate-resilient, carbon neutral, and equitable economic future requires regions-up planning and implementation of high road economic strategies.
The time to take this transition for granted is over.
As we move forward, climate change must be addressed in a way that benefits all Californians. Everyone – no matter their race, means or where they live – deserves clean air and the opportunity to be educated, housed, employed and able to contribute to our communities in a meaningful way.
The Community Economic Resilience Fund will provide the fuel – hopefully renewable! – to power B3K and other regional collaboratives and give us powerful navigation tools and clear directions. It will be up to all of us to drive toward our shared goals in a spirit of collaboration, compromise and the public good.
When regions thrive, everyone wins.
Jennifer Haley is president and CEO of Kern Oil & Refining Co. co-chair of the Better Bakersfield & Boundless Kern (B3K) Energy Workgroup and serves on the Executive Committee. Micah Weinberg is CEO of California Forward and member of the B3K Steering Committee.