California legislators approved a State budget on Sunday, marking a historic investment in climate action and local benefits especially for low-income communities. The budget allocates $832 million in appropriations from the Greehouse Gas Reduction Fund to investments like sustainable communities and clean transportation, while leaving some process and project-level details yet to be determined.
With proceeds from the cap-and-trade program, California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund will soon result in billions of dollars to reduce carbon pollution while creating local economic, environmental, and public health benefits. Senate Bill 535 (de León), which became law in 2012, requires that at least 25 percent of these monies go to projects that provide benefits to disadvantaged communities in California. Through the leadership of Senator de León, neighborhoods that need it most will see investments in transit, affordable housing, and energy efficiency.
To support California’s climate leadership and implementation of SB 535, the Luskin Center convened a working conference this spring, the results of which are now summarized in today’s report. “Investment Justice through the Greenhouse Reduction Fund: Implementing SB 535 and Advancing Climate Action in Disadvantaged Communities” contains four overarching recommendations:
- Establish a performance management approach for assessing program and project investment options (ex-ante) and tracking their results (ex-post). This approach would start with principles and goals contained in the germane state laws.
- Adopt criteria to screen, and indicators to score, investment options. The criteria should encompass and actualize the aforementioned goals, and all investment should be required to meet the eligibility criteria. The indicators should operate in a scoring system that prioritizes projects that achieve as many benefits as strongly as possible, while providing flexibility in how that is done.
- Select projects that meet SB 535 requirements by using metrics and thresholds to assess disadvantaged community benefits. Members of disadvantaged communities should have the opportunity to help define, to the extent feasible, investment priorities that then should inform corresponding metrics and performance targets/thresholds.
- Advance methods and data to make best use of the performance management approach. The State does not yet have sophisticated methods to estimate the co-benefits for disadvantaged communities, or even a common method for estimating how investments would achieve the primary goal of greenhouse gas reduction. This report makes recommendations for advancing these methods.
“Now that we have general allocations, we recommend that the State establish a performance management approach for assessing project-level investment options and tracking their results,” stated Colleen Callahan, a report author and deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. She adds, “This would involve criteria and indicators to screen and rank investments, with final SB 535 project selection guided by community input, metrics and thresholds.”
The report also contains considerations for making strategic and equitable investments in specific investment sector areas. Top priorities identified at this workshop as important for disadvantaged communities are reflected in the budget approved yesterday. This includes transit and low-carbon transportation, affordable housing and sustainable communities, weatherization and energy efficiency as well as sustainable urban forests programs.
Many of the recommendations in the report were informed by 150 representatives from disadvantaged communities, academia, government, civil society, and the private sector who participated in the UCLA hosted workshop.
For more information, see the REPORT and event WEBSITE with resources related to SB 535.