Economic recovery is an opportunity for the climate

Julian Canete and Matt Cate
Julian Canete is the president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and Matt Cate is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Climate Resistant California.

The world is changing around us.

While the current COVID-19 crisis can easily stoke fear and anxiety, it also offers a window into what we can accomplish when we work together.

We have come together to move mountains to mitigate this pandemic like never before. While we are not out of the woods yet, the unity and commitment to addressing COVID-19 displayed by Californians will be essential in tackling a separate crisis that has been unfolding for decades – climate change.  

Instances of collaboration and togetherness are all around us. Neighbors are helping at-risk community members accomplish essential errands like grocery shopping. Counties and cities are accelerating their programs to house their homeless populations. And states are collaborating on best practices and regional approaches to fight the disease.

California must prepare to meet the threat of climate change with the same unity, tenacity and resolve as it has the COVID-19 pandemic. Moments of crisis often present opportunity, and the current public health crisis is no different.

As Governor Newsom, the Legislature and the Tom Steyer-led Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery take steps to climb out of the current economic downturn, our recovery has a golden opportunity to focus on climate change. Significant public investment in clean energy is a commonsense solution to put millions of people back to work while fighting for a better tomorrow. Just as Governor Newsom said during his May Revise press conference, the way out of this COIVD-19 crisis is through the economy.

Public investment in clean energy in moments of economic crisis is not unprecedented. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), passed in the wake of the Great Recession, provided the funding that made some of California’s most ambitious and innovative clean energy projects a reality. The clean energy programs of the ARRA supported more than 900,000 jobs, according to White House estimates.

The impact of these early investments cannot be understated in California. The clean energy workforce had since grown into a booming industry, supporting a diverse and highly skilled workforce of over half a million workers, spread across all of our counties.

Now, more than ever, these workers need our support. Communities of color in California are especially impacted by the economic pressures of COVID-19 due to other co-occurring challenges such as the state’s worsening housing crisis, wage stagnation and other disparities affecting Californians of color. Investing in our diverse communities and workforce will allow us all the opportunity to thrive.

Fighting climate change and supporting the workers on the frontlines of the battle must remain a central and immediate focus. California has spent more than a decade positioning ourselves as a global leader in the fight against climate change. A setback to our climate goals could have negative repercussions around the world.

According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state’s emissions goals have set the bar for the nation, driving down emissions in the energy sector by as much as 40 percent. Even in the face of bankruptcy of our largest utility, California was able to keep our commitments to generating renewable energy. But we will have to do more and think bigger in order to meet our long-term climate goals. 

More than 36.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the public health crisis began. Gov. Newsom’s May Revise projected that 1 in 4 Californians would be out of work in the second quarter of 2020. As we look to put the American people back to work, our vision of a clean energy future provides opportunity to solve the crisis of today and head off the crisis of tomorrow. It will take a concerted and ambitious effort, but judging by our resolve to fight the current public health crisis, we are up to the challenge.

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