OP-ED: Governor Newsom, Please Keep Budget Cuts Away from our Climate Initiatives


Photo by Owen Davis

On Tuesday, Jan. 10th, California announced that it is projected to have a budget deficit of $22.5 billion in the fiscal year of 2023, a sharp reversal from the state’s $98 billion surplus in 2022. Among the budgeting cuts from this deficit is a $6 billion decrease in climate change initiatives, a markedly surprising decision given the climate crisis California finds itself in.

Just look at California’s massive flooding as an example of why taking away funding from environmental initiatives now would be an unwise decision given our current climate danger. San Francisco, as an example, has recorded its second-wettest day in more than 170 years, a statistic only made stronger by the realization that days with over 2 inches of rain have become 60 percent more common compared with the 1950s in the region (1). Beyond rain, climate change is altering seasonal shifts by drastic leaps as well, with Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab observing Sierra snowfall rates as high as 7.5 inches per hour (1). The recent impacts of climate change are undeniable, and its consequences will only grow as time goes on without increased measures.

Moreover, reducing environmental budgets now will only cause greater shortfalls in the future. According to a report by the Oxford Sustainable Finance Group, the US’s overall finance sector could lose up to $150 billion dollars annually if climate action is delayed (2). We’ve known this for over eight years to date, where members of Obama’s council of economic advisors stated that, “[T]he costs of delaying action to cut carbon pollution would be far higher in the long term – 40% over the course of a decade, in terms of the increased costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and dealing with climate impacts” (3). Numerous environmental organizations corroborate this, including Environment California, whose state director had this to say: “Cuts to climate and environment initiatives are penny-wise but pound-foolish” (4). By reducing climate initiatives now, we are only going to face greater costs in the future, something that would only be exacerbated by a future recession that looks more and more likely.

Beyond environmental impact, this budget proposal went so far as to propose a $745 million reduction in programs to expand zero-emission vehicle infrastructure in low-income neighborhoods, the regions where climate disasters and emissions have the greatest impact on residents. Take a study from the National Library Library of Medicine, which found that people making under $15,000 a year had a massively higher exposure percentage to particulate matters such as aluminum (18%) and silicon (16%) compared to those making over $50,000 annually (5).

This budget has not yet been finalized, but before it is, citizens across California need to rally in support of environmental measures. With there being over $22 billion in the Budget Stabilization Account, amounting to over triple the environmental budget deficit, California undoubtedly has the resources to continue funding these programs which are an immediate priority. Before July 1, the budget’s finalization date, citizens in every region across California need to protest and petition in favor of continuing California’s path to a sustainable future. For future and present sustainability, Governor Newsom, we, as citizens of this state, implore you to keep our climate budgets as they are.