California Plans to Preserve 30 Percent of Lands, Waters by 2030

California assuming mantle of 'global climate leadership,' Newsom claims
October 9, 2020 Updated: October 9, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order (pdf) this week calling for the conservation of 30 percent of the state’s lands and waters by 2030. Newsom says the measure will serve to combat climate change while protecting ecosystems and supporting biodiversity in the state.

Newsom, a Democrat, also said he hopes California’s efforts in what he termed an “existential fight” with climate change will serve as an example to other U.S. states and nations around the world.

“Once again, California is taking on the mantle of global climate leadership and advancing bold strategies to fight climate change,” Newsom said at a press conference announcing the move.

“The science is clear that, in our existential fight against climate change, we must build on our historic efforts in energy and emissions and focus on our lands as well,” he said. “California’s beautiful natural and working lands are an important tool to help slow and avert catastrophic climate change, and today’s executive order provides important new tools to take on this existential threat.”

Newsom’s order directs the state’s policymakers to develop solutions that would sequester carbon in soils and vegetation on state lands, thus removing it from the atmosphere.

An air tanker drops retardant
An air tanker drops retardant on the Glass Fire burning in Calistoga, Calif., on Sept. 27, 2020. (Noah Berger/AP Photo)

“This is an international movement,” Newsom told journalists at the press conference near the town of Winters in Solano County. “California, as the fifth-largest economy in the world, needs to flex its muscles, needs to assert itself and to advance that cause, not only as it relates to its global impacts but hopefully jump-start similar efforts in other states across this country.”

Newsom said that one of his goals was that of “advancing a cause that we hope will impact not just the rest of the country, but parts all across the globe.”

Newsom said his goal is to align California’s state policy with the “30×30” plan proposed by the Campaign for Nature advocacy group. The 30×30 plan involves state and nations pledging to conserve 30 percent of their lands and waters by the year 2030. The organization claims that worldwide, only 15 percent of land and 7 percent of oceans are protected.

The Campaign for Nature campaign is the brainchild of the Washington-based Wyss Foundation, which receives much of its funding from the Swiss-born liberal philanthropist and billionaire, Hansjörg Wyss.

Newsom’s order was welcomed by a number of environmental organizations and political figures.

Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said Newsom’s commitment was “a watershed moment” in what he described as a movement to combat climate change, improve biodiversity, and restore lands and waters. O’Mara said the plan would also create jobs.

“There is simply no more cost-effective way to jumpstart our economic recovery and create millions of jobs than recovering at-risk wildlife populations through the restoration of our waters, forests, wetlands, and grasslands, and coasts,” said O’Mara in a statement.

“I applaud Gavin Newsom for setting the goal of conserving 30 percent of land and water resources by 2030,” wrote Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Twitter. “We need to meet strong goals like this in order to combat climate change and preserve California’s rich biodiversity.”

The Sierra Club also thanked Newsom for implementing the order, which follows Newsom’s order last month directing California state regulators to develop rules to ban the sale of gas- and diesel-powered cars and trucks in the state by 2035.

Criticism

California’s governor has received scathing criticism from President Donald Trump for what the president says is poor forest management in California, while Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler recently questioned the legality of Newsom’s proposed 2035 ban on the sale of gas-powered cars.

A message posted Wednesday by the California Senate GOP Caucus described Newsom’s executive order as “authoritarian.” And California’s Senate Environmental Quality Committee Vice Chair Patricia Bates, a Republican, said that Newsom sought to bypass the legislative process by signing the order.

“Policies to successfully address climate change require informed input from the people’s representatives in the Legislature,” Bates said in a statement. “My legislative colleagues and I considered Assembly Bill 3030 this year that sought to accomplish the same goals as the Governor’s decree. However, concerns about AB 3030’s significant costs raised by counties, public water districts, and outdoor recreational enthusiasts meant that additional deliberation was needed as there was bipartisan opposition to the bill.”

Bates listed costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars, ambiguity, the lack of identified funding sources, and regulatory overreach as reasons for the state Legislature’s opposition to similar bills.

“With the stroke of a pen, the Governor has ignored all of those concerns,” Bates said.