Opinion

Climate investments support jobs across California

Windmills at the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm in Southern California, generating clean renewable electrical energy. (Photo: Patrick Poendl, via Shutterstock)

At this week’s Global Climate Action Summit, the focus is not on countries’ efforts to curb climate change, but on how cities, states, businesses, nonprofits and other non-national actors are building a low-carbon future from the bottom up. As the host state, California is in the spotlight. And do we have a story to tell.

We can point to decades of leadership in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation, capped by a new commitment to 100 percent carbon-free electricity —and a thriving economy that is now the world’s fifth biggest. Now, we have hard evidence that climate policies are helping Californians in the most practical of ways by creating jobs throughout the state.

That’s 8.8 jobs created for every $1 million the state invests, and it’s a pretty good return on investment from the employment perspective alone.

Researchers at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation have completed the first-ever study of statewide employment outcomes from California Climate Investments. This is money collected through California’s iconic cap-and-trade program. Utilities, large industrial facilities, and other major sources of greenhouse gas emissions bid at auction for the right to emit carbon. These funds are invested in programs that advance low-carbon transportation, sustainable communities, clean energy, natural resource conservation, and waste diversion.

We looked at the first $2.2 billion in California Climate Investments, appropriated between 2013 and 2016, and found the investments directly support 19,700 jobs. In addition, these investments induced consumers, businesses and governments to contribute an estimated $6.4 billion in matching funds, which supports another 55,900 jobs. Add it up, and the state’s $2.2 billion in California Climate Investments supports a total of over 75,000 jobs.

That’s 8.8 jobs created for every $1 million the state invests, and it’s a pretty good return on investment from the employment perspective alone. Compare it to 2.2 jobs created for every $1 million invested in computer and electronics manufacturing – the largest manufacturing sector in the state. Or compare it to 1.6 jobs for every $1 million invested in the oil and gas industries covered by the cap-and-trade program. California Climate Investments are designed primarily to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to provide local co-benefits– employment being one – across the state, including  communities affected by poverty and pollution.

California Climate Investments are supporting transit-oriented affordable housing projects from West Sacramento to Long Beach. They are paying to plant trees from fire-damaged parts of the Sierra Nevada to the Inland Empire’s Route 66 Veterans Memorial Corridor. They are enabling expanded transit options in Oakland, and turning waste from dairy farms into renewable energy in the San Joaquin Valley.  And these projects are supporting jobs for construction workers, bus drivers, engineers, architects and others, in urban, suburban, and rural parts of the state.

Our study looked at the first $2.2 billion in California Climate Investments, appropriated in 2013 and 2016; since then, more than $6 billion in additional funding has been appropriated. And California Climate Investments make up only one part of our state’s comprehensive climate and clean energy efforts. We need more research on the real-world effects of all of California’s efforts to tackle climate change, both to monitor their outcomes and to inform policymakers’ thinking if course corrections are needed.

This week, global climate leaders visitingCalifornia will see first-hand howpioneering policies can drive environmental and economic progress.Our state is working to do what’s right both for the planetand for the people of California, and it’s a record to be proud of.

Ed’s Note: J.R. DeShazo is an environmental economist and director of the Luskin Center for Innovation at UCLA, which unites scholars and civic leaders to address environmental challenges. 


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