The climate resilience package includes $1.5 billion for measures to better defend the state against wildfires. (Peter Buschmann/U.S. Forest Service)

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By Suzanne Potter

September 24, 2021   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Climate activists are praising Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing a $15 billion climate action package Thursday, but argued he should go one step further, and declare an official “climate emergency” in California.

The bills will fund projects to build up wildfire resilience and combat the drought.

Heidi Harmon, former mayor of San Luis Obispo, said the state needs to think even bigger.

“People in the state of California and everywhere will not do small things for small goals, but they will do big things for big goals,” Harmon asserted. “And California is a big vision state.”

The package also includes money to plant more trees in cities to combat the heat island effect and improve air quality. It would also fund so-called “smart agriculture” projects, and put more zero-emission vehicles on the road. Newsom said the investment is the largest in state history.

Paul Koretz, member of the Los Angeles City Council, thinks it does not go far enough, given the immediate threats climate change poses in terms of drought, wildfires and sea-level rise.

“We need to halt the permitting of oil and gas operations,” Koretz contended. “We need to phase out the sale of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles as soon as possible. Right away wouldn’t be too soon.”

Advocates are also calling on the state to allow more prescribed burns on Native American reservations, in order to reduce the buildup of dead trees and brush that increases the fuel load and leads to megafires.