Supervisor Rafael Mandelman speaks at a news conference in February alongside supervisors Gordon Mar and Sandra Lee Fewer and environmental groups announcing a resolution declaring a climate emergency. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Putting California’s climate action plans to work for our communities

Declaring a climate emergency is only the first step

From San Francisco to Sacramento, local and state governments are aggressively moving to address the devastating impacts of climate change and the fossil-fuel economy. Locally, these efforts have been recently highlighted by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s leadership in pushing for San Francisco’s declaration of a climate emergency. In fact, this declaration specifically calls upon new policies and programs started through the climate emergency process to invest in environmental justice communities as well as focus on union career opportunities, including training and retraining for good-paying jobs in the clean economy.

Statewide, a floor should be similarly set to spur cities in taking stronger action on jobs through their local climate action strategies. Currently, at least 141 cities in California have plans and initiatives to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, more commonly known as climate action plans. These plans typically involve setting GHG emission reduction goals and adopting implementation measures to achieve those goals. However, less than five plans in the state incorporate any meaningful engagement around green jobs, community workforce agreements, and other best workforce practices such as local hiring and sustainable career pathways in solar, energy efficiency, and beyond.

Gov. Gavin Newsom could lead this broader innovative environmental framework for both local communities and the nation. Pieces of this vision are already in the works. Thanks to California’s aggressive investments in solar and energy efficiency, at least half a million green jobs will be created. Throughout the last year, the California Workforce Development Board has also been assembling a workforce report mandated under Assembly Bill 398 and shaping strong apprenticeship programs. Taking this report a step further, localities and the state should also take steps to advance equity and sustainable careers for workers while addressing the challenges of climate change.

San Francisco has embarked upon this path while successfully executing a robust Climate Action Strategy of 0-80-100-Roots. This plan translates into zero waste, 80 percent sustainable trips, 100 percent renewable energy, and protecting our urban green spaces. Given the city of San Francisco’s commitment to a vibrant green economy and progressive workforce development, adding a jobs plank should be a no-brainer. Job creation is not only a laudable goal itself but also the means to persuade communities rooted in the fossil fuel industry to transition to a clean economy.

An environmental justice vision that includes good-paying community jobs should be addressed by every regional agency in the Bay Area as well. For instance, in January 2019, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission just concluded their first public Environmental Justice Workshop to address shoreline flooding that can lead to a loss of housing, schools, jobs, and access to parks as well as exposure to pollutants washed over from nearby contaminated sites.

More action on protecting and enhancing our most vulnerable Bay Area communities will be considered over the next year for this regional agency.

Climate change has particularly serious consequences for vulnerable communities along the Bay Area’s shoreline. Our communities, our environment, and our livelihoods depend on building the foundation for a vibrant and clean economy now.

Eddie Ahn is the executive director of Brightline Defense, an environmental justice nonprofit based in San Francisco, and a member of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, a planning and regulatory agency with regional authority over the San Francisco Bay.

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