2023 Climate Budget Wins Part 1: Buildings, Transport, and Energy

Recently, the Governor and the Legislature came together on a budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year. The deal marks the culmination of months of negotiations to create a budget that protects key programs, including those that prioritize fighting climate change, without raising taxes on the middle class. As the Chair of the Senate Budget Subcommittee No. 4, which is responsible for Resources, Environmental Protection and Energy, I worked with my colleagues and stakeholders to prioritize the most cost effective solutions to fight climate change.

This budget prioritizes high-impact climate change solutions, as well as investing millions into adapting to the current effects of climate change. In addition, we focused on equity, recognizing that certain communities will bear the effects of climate change more strongly and do not have the same access to resources to combat climate change.

In the next two posts on Getting to Zero, I will go over some of the most exciting measures that cover a wide ground. Today, I’m starting with the three largest sources of emissions after energy: buildings, transportation, and electricity production.   


Building Decarbonization

Buildings currently compose around 10% of the state’s emission. The 2023-24 state budget provides resources to effectively reduce our energy use through Building Decarbonization of existing buildings. 

  • $423 million for the Energy Commission’s Equitable Building Decarbonization Program to do direct install and subsidization for low-income households and buildings to install zero emission appliances. 
  • $10 million Building Energy Benchmarking Program, which requires the owners of large commercial or multifamily buildings to report their energy use to the California Energy Commission (CEC). This will reveal to owners how efficient or inefficient their buildings are as compared to buildings of similar size in order to cut back on energy use to lead to lower emissions (and lower energy bills for them!). 
  • $95M for the state’s TECH Clean California program, which incentivizes individual and contractor recommended installation of heat pumps in homes. 
  • I am also happy that this budget funds my bill, SB 1203, the “California Zero,” in the amount of $2.5 million to be spent over the next three years in order to make the California government agencies carbon neutral by 2035.


Alternatives to fossil-fuel vehicles

Transportation is the leading emitter of greenhouse gasses, with nearly 50% of California’s emissions coming from the sector. In order to meet our climate goal of greenhouse gas emissions to 85% below 1990 levels by 2045, we must invest in switching to electric vehicles, both for passenger cars and for vehicles used in industries like agricultural and shipping, as well as the corresponding infrastructure required for this shift. We must also invest heavily in public transportation infrastructure, from trains to ferries to bus systems. And increasing ridership to pre-pandemic levels and beyond is crucial in order to decrease the total mileage that each car drives.

This year’s budget continues the legislature’s prioritization of these investments, in all sectors.

  • $80 million for Clean Cars 4 All and other California Air Resources Board (CARB) equity projects. Clean Cars 4 All is a program that provides incentives for low-income Californians (those making 3x or less the federal poverty line) to obtain low or zero emission vehicles.
  • $75 million for the Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER) program, which helps California farmers replace their heavy-emitting equipment (such as trucks, harvesting equipment, and pumps) for new low-to-zero emission equipment. In line with themes of equity, the program provides additional support for small farmers who tend to have older, heavier-polluting equipment.   
  • $5.1 billion for public transit 
    • Of this, $4 billion to the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) over the next two years for the Transportation and Intercity Rail Capital Program. This program supports efforts to upgrade urban/commuter rail, bus, and ferry systems across California to increase ridership.
    • The other $1.1 billion will also go to CalSTA to invest in zero-emission public transit buses and related infrastructure.
  • $100 million Equitable At-home charging. For electric vehicles to become the norm in California, we need wider access to charging vehicles at home. Currently, less than 33% of state residents have the capacity to charge at home, with lower-income residents and people in multi-family residences showing greater disparities in lack of access to charging.   
  • $220 million for Clean Trucks, Buses, and Off-Road Equipment Infrastructure for the California Energy Commission.
  • $165 million drayage trucks and infrastructure at CARB and CEC. Drayage trucks are trucks that transport cargo from ports to rails. This is in line with our state’s goal of achieving a fully clean truck and bus fleet in California by 2045. 


Greening the Grid

Although California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard sets targets for which the state’s electricity suppliers must produce zero-emission electricity, this year’s budget creates heavy investments into ensuring clean reliability resources come online faster to prevent blackouts and reduce the costs of electricity. Notably, this year we allocated $100 million from the Clean Energy Reliability Investment Plan to fund projections like subsidizing community solar and planning for more transmission lines.

Given the fiscal difficulties that the state had to overcome in order to preserve funding for core programs and services and close the budget deficit in a responsible manner while maintaining our reserves, the 2023-24 budget could not deliver everything that we need. There is still work that needs to be done in order to protect the progress that we have made. However, this budget moves much closer to reaching our clean energy and climate goals than before. As the 4th largest economy in the world, California sets climate change precedent not just for the United States but for the planet, and the steps that California is taking in our latest budget are an important part in addressing this global issue. California has demonstrated time and time again–with this budget and with our legislation–that we can address climate change, create jobs, and decarbonize our economy in a way that supports the economy, creates jobs, and protects the environment.