Advancing Farm Solutions to Tackle the Climate Crisis
A comprehensive package of climate change policy bills is now on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, awaiting his signature. We are celebrating the fact that among them is Assembly Bill (AB) 1757, which would require the state to set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for the state’s natural and working lands, including agriculture.
CalCAN strongly supported this effort as California has long needed climate-related goals for our farms, forests, wetlands, urban forests, and more. The bill’s passage is the outcome of several years of effort, including bills we sponsored in prior years that influenced and informed this critical development.
Why Set Targets?
The state of California has numerous climate change-related targets, including those related to increased renewable energy production, zero-emission vehicles, energy-efficient buildings, and more. These targets help not only measure the state’s progress toward a more climate-resilient economy but also help to justify state funding and programs needed to achieve those goals. The state has not yet quantified how California’s 100 million acres of natural and working lands can contribute to meeting our climate goals.
Without articulating what’s possible in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sinks in our soils, trees, and other woody biomass, we do not have a clear roadmap on how investments in our agricultural lands and other landscapes can make a difference in addressing the climate crisis.
Working with partners like The Nature Conservancy, CalCAN has sponsored bills, most recently AB 284 in 2021, to further the state’s efforts to define climate goals related to agriculture and other working and natural lands.
Those efforts were often met with opposition from conventional agricultural associations, concerned that efforts to step up agricultural solutions to the climate crisis may result in increased agriculture regulations.
We counter that we cannot continue to make a case for investments in voluntary programs like the Healthy Soils Program and other state Climate Smart Agriculture programs if we cannot demonstrate that those programs will help achieve a quantifiable greenhouse gas reduction target. Our network partners of farmers, scientists, technical providers, and others have joined us to support these efforts.
A Step Forward: What Does AB 1757 Do?
By January 1, 2024, AB 1757 requires that the California Natural Resources Agency, working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and related agencies, along with an expert advisory committee, to:
“determine an ambitious range of targets for natural carbon sequestration, and for nature-based climate solutions, that reduce greenhouse gas emissions for 2030, 2038, and 2045 to support state goals to achieve carbon neutrality and foster climate adaptation and resilience.”
CalCAN and our allies pushed hard to include the expert committee in the bill. It’s critical that the state’s efforts to set climate targets bring university researchers working on these issues together with practitioners, including farmers, and technical assistance providers such as Resource Conservation Districts, Cooperative Extension, and others to inform this work.
We’re excited to see AB 1757 advance. The bill’s authors, Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia and Robert Rivas worked closely with the Assembly Speaker, the Senate President Pro Tem, and the Governor’s administration to move this effort forward. We appreciate their leadership.
We will continue our work by staying closely involved in identifying an ambitious and practical target. Want to know more about AB 1757 and the next steps? Drop us a line. We will post updates on this effort as discussions about target setting occur in the coming year.