Another View: Climate policies will help poorest Californians

For those who struggle to pay their rent and put food on the table, California’s status as the world’s seventh-largest economy is meaningless.

I appreciate Dan Walters’ concern for the poor (“Is state booming? Not really,” Nov. 18). However, having been raised in poverty and representing one of the poorest Senate districts in the state, economic inequality is a constant in my reality.

While California’s job growth outpaced all other states in 2014 and unemployment is 5.8 percent, the lowest since October 2007, not enough is being done to share the bounties of a recovering economy with the poorest Californians. Walters reveals shortsightedness as he clings to a harmful carbon-based economy, while failing to acknowledge the economic and health benefits of our climate change policies to these very communities.

My 2012 legislation, Senate Bill 535, requires that 25 percent of the state’s cap-and-trade revenue benefit low-income communities disproportionately impacted by pollution. In 2014-15, $75 million was allocated for installing energy efficient products, reducing utility bills and allowing families to use their precious dollars on other necessities. Tens of millions more was earmarked for affordable housing near public transit to cut carbon emissions.

Beyond improving quality of life, these projects create jobs and stimulate the economy. Last year, 450,000 Californians were employed by more than 2,000 companies that provide energy efficiency or renewable energy goods and services, according to the Advanced Energy Economy Institute. California’s solar industry alone employed 55,000 people, more than the state’s five major utilities combined. These are good-paying jobs, and many do not require a college degree.

This year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 350, my legislation to increase the state’s renewable energy portfolio to 50 percent by 2030. The UC Berkeley Labor Center estimates it will create 429,000 jobs over the next 15 years.

Senate Democrats plan to increase our clean energy investment in underserved communities in the Central Valley, Inland Empire and elsewhere with hundreds of millions more in cap-and-trade dollars. Next month, as I join the governor at the climate summit in Paris to showcase California’s successes in reducing carbon emissions, I will continue to tout climate leadership as an engine of broadly shared economic prosperity.