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Gov. Newsom proposes landmark investment in healthy electric homes to cut climate pollution, protect public from extreme heat event

​January 10, 2022
MEDIA CONTACT: Allison MacMunn, 312.622.4004

Climate and environmental justice advocates applaud close to $1 billion in funding for electric heating and cooling upgrades for low-income communities, call for $1 billion in additional funding for community resilience centers to further protect public health during extreme weather, extreme heat events.
Sacramento, CA–California programs aimed at cutting climate pollution from homes and increasing resilience in the face of extreme heat would receive nearly $1 billion in funding under a budget proposal put forth by the Newsom Administration. Climate and environmental justice advocates applaud this landmark investment, which aims to protect public health by providing new funding for clean cooling in low-income homes through the installation of all-electric heat pumps while cutting the pollution that’s driving this crisis.

In addition to protecting residents from extreme heat, this proposed investment in clean cooling for low-income homes would kickstart a statewide equitable transition to pollution-free buildings. The adoption of all-electric heat pumps – which provide both cooling and heating and can run on 100% renewable electricity – is a necessary step to reduce climate pollution from buildings, with the aim to slow the growth of climate-fueled, life-threatening extreme heat events.

“The reality is that in a hotter California, access to cooling in homes is a survival necessity, and we applaud the budget’s focus on equipping low-income residents with clean electric heat pump cooling systems. But just like we need household-level resilience solutions, we also need community-level investments to support the lives and health of those most impacted by climate change. We’re pleased to see investments sustained for community resilience centers, and are calling for significant additional funding for this lifesaving service,” said Jose Torres, California Director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition. 

Advocates celebrated the climate funding proposed, but called for additional funding for community resilience centers sought by a coalition of environmental and environmental justice groups — a critical need in the administration’s proposed efforts to expand lifesaving access to cooling in the face of climate-driven extreme heat events. 

To help address the convergence of climate, economic, and public health crises that California communities of color are facing, advocates have pushed for an additional $1 billion in funding for community resilience centers: trusted public spaces where community members can access cooling, backup power, clean energy, and services. The Governor’s proposal sustains the $25 million allocated for resilience centers from the climate package announced on September 23, 2021 — and advocates call for additional funding for this urgent need to serve broader communities in the face of rapidly escalating climate impacts. Advocates were also heartened to see that the Governor is considering cooling in schools in heat-vulnerable communities.

“Today we celebrate this landmark investment in climate-resilience for low-income households, but we see this as a first step. We must do more to protect Californians – especially those most vulnerable – from deadly extreme heat events. There is an urgent need to provide community support and public health protection through additional funding for community resilience centers across our state, and we look forward to working with the Governor and legislators to map a path forward to expand this program’s reach,” said Amee Raval, policy and research director at the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. 

Research shows that low-income communities are especially vulnerable to heat-related health impacts, as they are less likely to have access to cooling at home. To maximize the lifesaving impact of California’s extreme heat programs, advocates say that it will be essential that low-income communities receive the bulk of the $1 billion in funding for home upgrades proposed in Governor Newsom’s budget. Targeting home upgrade investments to communities of color and low-income communities can also move the needle on cleaning up the disproportionately hazardous air quality these communities face, as replacing gas appliances with electric alternatives improves both indoor and outdoor air quality. 

“In the Los Angeles area alone, a staggering 1 million households lack access to air conditioning,” said Merrian Borgeson, a senior advocate with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “In the hotter temperatures fueled by climate change, that is a public health crisis. We need to target California’s investments in clean cooling to the communities where the need is greatest — the communities of color and low-income communities that are least likely to have access to cooling, and that are most vulnerable to the health consequences of extreme heat.”  

A Los Angeles Times investigation last year found that the risk of heat hospitalizations and deaths in California has risen dramatically in recent years with climate change — and that the true number of heat related deaths far exceeds official state numbers. Over the course of a decade, extreme heat caused 3,900 deaths in California — a number six times higher than the official state count. The investigation also found that heat-related hospitalizations have been on the rise in parts of California for at least 15 years, and that state leaders have ignored warnings from state agencies that heat events were becoming more dangerous.

“More aggressive investment in community resilience centers could do so much to further safety, health and resilience. Just imagine what more dollars could do if leveraged with proposed investments in community health workers, public health infrastructure, small business, increasing access to ZEVs and EV infrastructure, and community-driven climate resilience planning. Additionally, the much needed investment in equitable building decarbonization is an important step in making sure all Californians are safe and healthy in their homes – a reality out of reach for so many people living in homes without cooling of any kind in the parts of the state that are hot and getting hotter. We look forward to working with the administration and legislature to ensure that aggressive investments and policies ensure that all Californians live in safe and resilient homes,” said Veronica Garibay-Gonzalez, Co-executive Director of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

Environmental justice and environmental groups will continue to push for $1 billion in funding for community resilience centers as the Governor’s budget moves through the legislative process in coming months.