Heavy traffic on Interstate 5
Heavy traffic on Interstate 5 in North County. Courtesy SANDAG

In the leadup to Earth Day, we must acknowledge bold action on climate change is a clear moral responsibility for today’s leaders. 

This decade is our last chance to make significant changes in our energy, transportation, and infrastructure to avoid burdening our children with a state damaged by climate change.

The city of San Diego’s commitment to operate on 100% clean energy by 2035 and last month’s unanimous vote among our county supervisors to divest from fossil fuel companies show our region is pushing boundaries in the climate fight. We need the state to keep up. 

San Diegans need their state to match and support our local efforts in order to preserve a safe and healthy future for all Californians. We need our state representatives, especially State Senate leader Toni Atkins, to keep fighting for us and dig in to pass a Climate Courage Budget that dedicates at least five percent of state spending over five years – roughly $75 billion – towards climate solutions.

The logic is simple. Only a massive investment can overcome the colossal scale of climate threats we face. Record wildfires are incinerating communities and choking us with toxic smoke that blocks  the sun. Record drought threatens San Diego’s access to water from the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River, which provide 80 percent of our water supply. Record heat waves kill more Californians than other natural disasters. Rising seas threaten our beaches, tourism economy, and way of life — especially here in San Diego.

Without action now, these threats to our health, lives, and livelihoods will become more intense, frequent, and destructive. It’s exciting to see Gov. Gavin Newsom propose an unprecedented $37.6 billion investment in climate. Unfortunately, this debate isn’t about spending more than the past. It’s about spending enough to win this fight before time runs out. 

The Climate Courage Budget campaign’s plan urges California’s leaders to double down on the governor’s proposal. We have the know-how. Our state budget surplus can provide the resources to unleash it. We just need leaders with the courage to act. 

By doubling down on climate solutions at scale over the next five years, California can help San Diego and other communities correct economic and environmental injustices and grow new markets while creating jobs powering our economy on affordable clean energy.

Preserving water access is vital. That’s why the Climate Courage Budget plan includes $7.2 billion for water supply, management, and conservation. Water bill aid and water efficiency assistance for low-income families, improvements to water systems at risk, groundwater monitoring, and drought emergency actions are also prioritized.

A large state investment in water could boost San Diego’s efforts to find new water supplies through infrastructure upgrades that capture, treat, and store stormwater. With nearly $2 billion in unmet stormwater system needs in San Diego overall, our communities remain vulnerable to poor water quality, flooding, sinkholes, property damage, and more. 

Transportation is the largest source of climate emissions in California. That’s why the Climate Courage Budget plan includes $28.4 billion to ensure all Californians, especially those most impacted by vehicle pollution, benefit from zero-emission car ownership and have more transit and active transportation alternatives available. 

These funds could provide a lifeline to help develop underground rail connections at La Jolla and Del Mar, protecting the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and the North Coast Transit District Coaster trains from potential derailment from bluff erosion caused by rising sea levels. They could also help connect commuters to UC San Diego and local transit hubs.

The Climate Courage Budget plan also includes $2.9 billion to green our buildings with pollution-reducing retrofits powering homes and appliances for low-income Californians on electricity instead of natural gas along with infill development and affordable housing. 

These funds could help other communities follow the example set by Encinitas, which passed a comprehensive building ordinance last fall prioritizing green buildings. 

As the June 15 state budget deadline approaches, a lot is at stake for San Diego. We need our leaders to stand up to the corporate polluters profiting from the climate crisis and invest in another future that’s better for the rest of us. 

Lucero Sanchez is president of the board of directors at the League of Conservation Voters – San Diego.

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