Together we made great progress in 2023 confronting environmental challenges across the world. Now, more than ever, we’re laser-focused on maintaining this progress and collaboration entering the New Year.
But first, let’s look back for a moment on 2023. Huge storms last winter ended the four-year drought—which now can be characterized as our new normal of water extremes. We worked hard to protect communities and utilized flood waters to recharge our aquifers, which is also one of many steps we’re taking to adjust to a hotter, drier future.
Wildfires were moderate in California for the second straight year, even as Canada, Greece and Hawaii were devastated. Thousands of fuel breaks and prescribed burns are underway across the state to protect communities and restore landscape health and our firefighters have more tools than ever to protect us. We’re also restoring our natural places more aggressively than ever before, adding almost 1,000 square miles of protected areas to our world-leading 30x30 initiative and cutting green tape to better restore nature.
Importantly, we’re concentrating all of these efforts within our most vulnerable and underinvested communities.
And our progress has been remarkable. Governor Newsom and our Legislature utilized historic budget surpluses over the last three years to make the largest-ever investments in our environment. All told, California invested almost $50 billion into climate change action—more than most countries are spending to combat and adjust to climate change. I think we can be proud of our progress, while acknowledging that there is always more work to do, with much important work ahead.
Looking forward, we’re driving forward on the Governor’s key environmental priorities and, with you, we will be focused on the following priorities in the coming year:
- Building clean infrastructure fast enough to confront the climate crisis. We need to bring online record amounts of solar, wind and other sources of clean energy generation, as well as storage facilities, to meet our 100% clean energy goal and quickly shift our cars, trucks and buildings to zero-emissions. We also need to diversify water supplies and modernize our water infrastructure, expand flood and wildfire protections, and shift our infrastructure to adjust to extreme heat and sea level rise. We’re actively implementing the Governor’s Executive Order to accelerate this climate infrastructure.
- Delivering clear progress on our climate action plans: We’ve developed clear roadmaps to achieve 100% clean energy and carbon neutrality while adjusting to worsening drought and floods, wildfires, extreme heat and sea level rise. We’ve also developed a plan to better integrate nature-based solutions across government. We now need to stay focused on executing the specific actions in these action plans.
- Protecting and restoring more natural areas across California to help our world-renowned biodiversity adjust to climate change and other stressors. This means accelerating our charge to protect 30% of our entire state by 2030, with a special focus on improving conditions in our rivers to help salmon and other imperiled aquatic animals survive warming temperatures and to build habitat connectivity to enable animals to move and adjust over time.
- Helping get more Californians outside and into nature. We know how important being outdoors is to our health and well-being and we’re committed to ensuring that all Californians have these opportunities. This means concentrating investments and opportunities into communities that haven’t had these resources before.
- Embedding tribal partnership into the core of our work. California Native American tribes have cared for the environment for thousands of years, so supporting tribal leadership is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart approach to protect lands and natural resources across the state. We are partnering with tribes to reconnect these wise place-based knowledges by supporting tribal leadership through ancestral land return and tribal stewardship.
- Helping and leading international efforts to confront these global crises. California can’t solve climate change or biodiversity loss on our own. It takes a coordinated effort across international borders. That’s why we need to be vocal, visible leaders in the international efforts to effectively tackle these crises. We’ll deepen our efforts to drive this global progress through collaboration with China, Australia, and governments with that share our similar climate around the world.
As Californians, we are as resilient as the environment we’re working to protect. We can and will maintain this progress despite budget headwinds. We’ve shown before how state government can strengthen protecting and restoring our environment despite budget ups-and-downs in recent decades.
This situation is no different. We’ll use all available opportunities to make progress, including working to secure historic federal funding thanks to the Biden-Harris administration, unprecedented partnerships with philanthropic organizations and a world-leading volunteer movement that Governor Newsom is driving.
At the end of the day, our progress is only possible thanks to visionary leaders and groups working together across the state. Local governments and agencies, community-based organizations, environmental conservation groups are all leading the way, driving new and meaningful ways of doing things, and embracing urgent solutions for the realities facing us.
Together we’ll continue to forge world leading progress. There’s no alternative and certainly no time to waste.