In a potent move towards addressing climate change and social equity, a broad alliance of environmental justice advocates, energy providers, and technology manufacturers has called on California Governor Gavin Newsom to insist on the continuation of significant funding for the innovative Equitable Building Decarbonization (EBD) Program. This call to action comes alongside a recommendation to further strengthen the program’s financial underpinning through a $400 million climate bond set for a public vote in November.

The EBD Program, overseen by the California Energy Commission, is a robust initiative aimed at transforming the living conditions of low-income and environmental justice communities across the state. Through an allocation of $922 million, the program seeks to facilitate the widespread installation of six million heat pumps by 2030, a target aligned with California’s ambitious climate goals. These heat pumps are a crucial element in the quest to enhance air quality, reduce climate pollution, and offer more efficient cooling options to those in need, especially as the state grapples with intensifying heatwaves and worsening air pollution exacerbated by climate change.

The importance of this funding and the suggested enhancement through a climate bond cannot be understated. At the core of the EBD Program’s objectives is the push for equitable access to technologies that not only contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions but also significantly improve the health, comfort, and climate resilience of California’s most vulnerable populations. This initiative represents a pivotal step towards rectifying historical inequities by ensuring that the benefits of technological advancements and climate action are accessible to all, including those residing in disadvantaged communities.

Jose Torres, the California Director at the Building Decarbonization Coalition, emphasized the critical need for healthy, climate-resilient homes equipped with zero-emission heat pumps. Torres warned of the dire implications that potential cuts to the program’s funding could have on Californian communities, particularly those already facing the brunt of environmental and social inequities.

Compounding the significance of this initiative, Grecia Orozco, a Staff Attorney at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, highlighted the challenges faced during the San Joaquin Valley Pilot Program, notably the scarcity of funding and quality contractors necessary for maximizing the program’s impact. The pilot program’s aim to install electric appliances in disadvantaged communities underscored the pressing need for the EBD Program and the continuity of its substantial funding.

In California, where the homes and buildings sector is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions following transportation, the EBD Program represents a forward-thinking approach to addressing climate change at its root. By facilitating access to heat pumps and home upgrades for hundreds of thousands of low-income households, the program not only aims to cut down on emissions but also promises to improve air quality for 99% of disadvantaged communities throughout the state.

As Governor Newsom and policymakers gear up for the May Revision of the state budget, the environmental and social justice communities await with bated breath. The decision to maintain the current funding and support the inclusion of the climate bond in November’s ballot will be a testament to California’s commitment to pioneering equitable climate resilience and reinforcing its position as a leader in the global fight against climate change.