Governor’s Office Envisions California’s Climate Future

Posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2013 by Adam Kotin

In 1970, California Assembly Bill 2070 created the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and called for it to prepare and maintain an Environmental Goals and Policy Report (EGPR).

In 1978, an ambitious young governor named Edmund “Jerry” Brown, Jr. used the EGPR to paint his vision for California’s future. That document — entitled An Urban Strategy for California — remains an ambitious, forward-looking document even today. In strokes both broad and specific, it lays out a plan to “meet the needs of more people in California, while at the same time respecting fundamental limits on our tax dollars and natural resources.”

The Urban Strategy attempts to assimilate astounding levels of population growth into the fabric of the State’s planning functions. While its focus is on the “urban problems” brought on by this growth, its solutions are rooted squarely in the challenge of land use planning: “…California must commit itself to more compact urban areas, to the revitalization of its existing cities and suburbs, to the continued production of its best agricultural lands.”

Despite AB 2070’s mandate that the OPR should “regularly revise” a State EGPR, Gov. Brown’s 1978 Urban Strategy was the last such document prepared and adopted.

Now, during Governor Brown’s third term, the OPR has finally prepared a discussion draft of another EGPR — this one entitled California @ 50 Million: California’s Climate Future.

As the name suggests, this new draft report frames California’s continued population growth within the context of the state’s climate change goals. In many ways, the draft report reframes the strategies laid out in 1978 to reflect the newer specter of climate change.

Overall, California @ 50 Million is an impressive and wide-reaching document. Not only does it highlight progress towards reaching the AB 32 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, it also commits the state to reducing GHG emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 and pushes for a ‘mid-term’ emission reduction target to track progress towards that goal.

Of relevance to CalCAN’s work, it pinpoints farmland conservation as a way to build climate-resilient natural ecosystems — although it stops short of highlighting the GHG emissions reductions protected farmland can provide. It calls out bioenergy from crop residues as an area rich with potential and in need of guiding state policies – although it doesn’t mention the importance of sustainable harvesting practices. It proposes using multiple metrics related to farmland conversion as an indicator of success towards the state’s broader planning goals. But very noticeably absent is a discussion of sustainable agricultural systems and their benefits for GHG reductions, carbon sequestration, and climate change adaptation.

Nonetheless, we were pleased to see the draft report’s focus on climate change adaptation as a major planning goal. OPR proposes to “build climate resilience and preparedness into all policies”, and recognizes the persistent lack of reliable funding for adaptation-related projects.

And finally, the report finds ample space to sing the praises of one of the Governor’s favorite projects, High-Speed Rail.

Judging by this draft report, it seems clear that the Governor’s office is beginning to recognize the crucial importance of the agricultural sector in building California’s Climate Future. However, the absence of sustainable agricultural systems is disappointing, especially given the cost-effective, ‘shovel-ready’ solutions already available for working towards the very goals laid out in this report.

In short, there is still much more work to be done to bring small- to mid-scale sustainable farmers into this picture. But in the meantime we look forward to seeing the final EGPR released and acted upon by the State.

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