Governor outlines climate action spending in budget proposal – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Gov. Gavin Newsom called for $22.5 billion in state spending to combate climate change next year, offering a suite of solutions that mirror climate action and decarbonization efforts now underway in San Diego.

In a presentation Monday on his proposed budget for fiscal year 2022-23, Newsom announced a projected surplus of $45.7 billion and unveiled his proposals to use the windfall to combat COVID-19, climate change, homelessness, high costs of living and crime.

Newsom suggested the climate crisis offers threats and opportunities. In his address he argued that California has taken the lead on climate action within the U.S. and invited green technology investors to take advantage of state support and incentives.

“We put an unprecedented $15.1 billion to commit to address the existential issues of climate change last year,” he said. “This year we’re taking it to a whole other level with an additional $22.5 billion.”

San Diego has been planning for regional changes along the same lines. In November, the county released a report on its plan to eliminate carbon emissions before mid-century, in what officials described as the first such effort in California and perhaps the nation. The San Diego Regional Decarbonization Framework explored options for the county to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and to coordinate that effort among the county and its 18 cities.

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said the governor’s emphasis on similar priorities could help the county move the San Diego region off of fossil fuels.

“This regional decarbonization and green jobs plan is a first for California and the nation, so having the support of the governor and the state will be a huge boost,” Lawson-Remer said. “We are eager to work with the governor’s office and legislature to make sure there is funding in the budget to help us put this ambitious plan into action and create a new generation of high-quality green jobs in the process.”

Newsom noted that California has vowed to end sales of gas-powered vehicles by 2035 and he’s proposing to commit $10 billion to make that happen. His plan would include $3.9 billion to switch trucks, buses and heavy vehicles to renewable energy, $1.2 billion to convert passenger cars and install 100,000 electric vehicle charging stations, and $1 billion for other electric vehicle investments, on top of $3.9 billion in funding continued from last year.

“For every investor in the world … I hope they wake up to that $10 billion investment,” he said. “No one else is committed to doing more in this space. If you are looking to put your dollars and invest and create jobs and opportunity, there’s no other state in the country, few countries in the world, more committed to support your efforts.”

Newsom also announced plans to spend $2.1 billion on “nature-based solutions” to climate change, including coastal and ocean protection, responses to extreme heat, and “smart agriculture,” which uses less water, pesticides and fertilizer and can help capture carbon in soil. He also announced plans for $2 billion for converting buildings, industry and other infrastructure to clean energy, and $1 billion in new tax credits for companies pursuing renewable energy and other climate solutions.

Newsom is asking the legislature to allocate $100 million for clean hydrogen development, $45 million for offshore wind projects and additional support for developing geothermal energy and lithium mining in Imperial County.

“We have what some have called the Saudi Arabia of lithium here in the state of California, down in Imperial County near the Salton Sea,” he said.

A $500-million project by Controlled Thermal Resources began drilling its first lithium and geothermal power production last year in Imperial County with backing from investors, including General Motors. If the project succeeds it would generate clean energy around the clock and produce lithium urgently needed for the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles.

Men walk near mud pots near where a company is mining for lithium in Niland, Calif.

Rod Colwell, CEO of Controlled Thermal Resources, right, and Tracy Sizemore, the company’s Global Director of Battery Materials, walk along geothermal mud pots near the shore of the Salton Sea, where the company is mining for lithium, in Niland, Calif., Thursday, July 15, 2021. Demand for electric vehicles has shifted investments into high gear to extract lithium from geothermal wastewater around the dying body of water. The ultralight metal is critical to rechargeable batteries. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The state should devise regulations, loan programs and environmental and labor standards to support the project, Newsom said, adding that it would serve climate action and regional economic development goals for “a part of the state that deserves more opportunity and investment.”

San Diego’s decarbonization report described similar strategies for slashing carbon emissions in energy production, transportation and buildings, along with ways to capture and store carbon in natural systems, and to address the labor and workforce equity issues of that transition. That plan is expected to be completed next year and will provide a guide for local agencies to reach regional climate targets, officials said.

Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said he applauds the state efforts, adding he hopes to see funding for workforce development and retraining.

“Workers, particularly those union workers with a work history in the fossil fuel industries, must be provided a thoughtful and planned transition into meaningful careers in the green economy,” Fletcher said.