Budget woes force cities to limit utopian climate programs

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Cities and counties in California should get used to not having money to impose the wildest schemes of CARB, Newsom and the Luddites in the Legislature.

City officials depend on money from state and federal governments to implement climate agendas imposed from above. A new report finds them griping about their favorite topic: not enough money from the taxpayers. Key takeaway: “Across all policy areas, respondents were most likely to identify staff capacity and funding as resource needs for moving climate actions from the planning stage to the implementation stage.”

The report goes by the unwieldy title, “Getting to Implementation: The Status of Local Climate Action in California.” It’s compiled by the nonprofit Next 10 and the UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment. Next 10 describes itself as “focused on innovation and the intersection between the economy, the environment and quality of life issues to benefit all Californians.” It’s mainly a booster of bureaucracy and big government.

The report claims, “California is at a critical point in its efforts to decarbonize the economy and achieve its climate targets. Recent state and federal funding commitments for climate actions offer an opportunity for California’s local governments to prioritize implementing climate strategies across multiple sectors.” The money mainly came from President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 and his Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, both of which actually increased inflation. But both programs are in the past.

The Berkeley-Next 10 report cites two events affecting cities and their anti-pollution programs. First is the Sept. 16, 2022 signing by Gov. Gavin Newsom of Assembly Bill 1279, the California Climate Crisis Act, which mandated zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

The bill’s author, Assembly member Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, claimed at the time, “The climate crisis is here and now. Wildfires, droughts, extreme heat, and flash floods are becoming worse every year, causing deaths and billions in property damage. This is Code Red for humanity, and we are running out of time to save our planet as we know it.”

The second event was the December 2022 Scoping Plan by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which implements AB 1279, as well as Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

But here’s the problem. Contemporary events have disrupted this whole process, beginning with the COP 28 Conference. That stands for the elaborate title – bureaucrats love long titles – the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Read Kerry Jackson’s Free Cities Center column about California’s lawsuit against Big Oil.

Read Daniel Kolkey’s Free Cities Center column about California’s climate policies.

At the beginning, the confab’s president Emirati Sultan Al Jaber outraged the climate obsessives by saying, “I accepted to come to this meeting to have a sober and mature conversation. I’m not in any way signing up to any discussion that is alarmist. There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve” limiting the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. He added that could not be achieved “unless you want to take the world back into caves.”

Oops. So much for California and its cities saving the planet.

Then there’s China and India, population 1.4 billion each, which continue to go gangbusters building coal plants to fuel their rapid industrial development. Reuters market analyst John Kemp cited the great increase in fossil fuel use in Western Europe and the United States between the 1950s and the 1970s as both continued their rapid industrialization.

“China and India appear to be moving along the same trajectory, increasing their use of indigenous coal even as they import more oil and gas, use more nuclear power, and invest in renewable generation from wind, solar and hydro,” he wrote. Neither country is going to slow that pace and risk social upheaval and revolution. Their leaders and people crave the same prosperity Western countries already achieved.

Back to California cities. Anything they do to reduce greenhouse gases is but a pinprick compared to China and India going in the opposite direction. The Berkeley/Next 10 survey talked to local officials, but responses came only from one third of cities and half of counties, mostly from the Bay Area and Southern California. Few rural and inland cities, where most California growth now is occurring, responded.

Of those responding, three-quarters of city and county officials said they have adopted a Climate Action Plan, or soon will. But only one third were working toward carbon neutrality.

A big category in the survey is Climate Equity and Environmental Justice. Only 52% are taking action on that or planning to at this time. The category is a new buzz phrase in the environmental community. The objection I always make is it’s obvious the rich are going to live and work in cleaner areas than the poor. But the way poor people get ahead is working in factories or oil refineries and living nearby. That’s the way it’s always been.

My paternal grandfather immigrated from Romania in 1906, worked in coal mines in Pennsylvania, came to Detroit first to work in factories, then became a carpenter. My father worked in factories as a tool and die maker, then after World War II used the G.I. Bill to become a lawyer, then a judge. I went to college and went into journalism and now suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s better than black lung disease.

Ironically, California’s numerous environmental laws, by making housing more expensive, increase commutes for the poor, keep them away from their families, worsen their health with long hours on the freeways and spew more gases from the exhaust pipes of their wheezing antique flivvers. The California Association of Realtors now calculates the median home can be afforded by only 15% of families, with an income of $221,200 needed to qualify. No wonder so many are leaving for more sensible states.

That’s just going to get worse because budgets are going to be cut at all levels. The Legislative Analyst’s Office on Dec. 7 shocked the state with a projection of a record $68 billion state general-fund budget deficit. The last time a major budget crash struck, during the Great Recession, the state raided local coffers and paid little of it back. One good development was the end of redevelopment agencies, those major abusers of property rights.

CARB and similar agencies originally were intended to clean up the air and water from the heady industrial growth of the last century, not to solve all the world’s problems. Cities and counties in California should get used to not having money to impose the wildest schemes of CARB, Newsom and the Luddites in the Legislature.

John Seiler is on the Editorial Board of the Southern California News Group. Write to him at [email protected].

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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