California's climate plan falls short | Pesticide Action Network
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California's climate plan falls short

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California farm land

Earlier this month, the California state government released a draft of the Scoping Plan –  the roadmap for how the state will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral by mid-century. PAN and partners had been anxiously anticipating the draft, as for the last several months we’ve been pushing the state to include organic agriculture and chemical pesticide reduction in their climate models for the plan.

For the first time, the Scoping Plan acknowledges the role that organic agriculture and reductions in chemical pesticide use could play in mitigating climate change. Less chemical-dependent growing methods, like diversified organic farming, have significant potential to help mitigate climate change since they store carbon in soils and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the Scoping Plan falls short in committing to meaningful targets and strategies that would transition the state towards more ecologically-sound and socially-just agricultural systems.

Digging into the details

The draft roadmap includes a commitment to 20% of agricultural land being organically farmed by 2045. That would mean that conventional, industrial agriculture would still make up 80% of agricultural land by mid-century. This target doesn’t even keep pace with the current market growth of organic production in California, which increased by 44% from 2014 to 2019. At this current rate, organic agriculture would make up 34% of total agricultural land by 2045 just to meet projected demand, without state-supported incentives or regulation. While it’s good news this is the direction California is already moving, this trend should provide incentive to reach for a higher goal. Clearly the state is in a position to do better, and the Scoping Plan’s 20% commitment isn’t a bold one.

Another shortcoming? The state failed to set any goal for chemical pesticide use reduction , despite repeated calls from the Scoping Plan’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee to do so. This omission also ignores the scientific evidence of pesticides’ contributions to climate change.

Reduced chemical pesticide use would result in enormous health benefits for people of color in California, particularly farmworkers and rural Latinx families. These communities disproportionately bear the brunt of the health hazards associated with the use of dangerous chemical pesticides.

After reviewing the draft Scoping Plan, our Organizing Co-Director for California Asha Sharma shared, “By leaving a pesticide reduction goal out of the Scoping Plan, California state officials continue to turn their back on environmental justice communities while ignoring science.” 

Other climate strategies

In addition to the Scoping Plan, which is developed by the California Air Resources Board, the other overarching state climate strategy is the California Natural Resource Agency’s Climate Adaptation Strategy. This plan has been finalized by state agencies, but it also doesn’t include chemical pesticide reduction targets to combat climate change in the agricultural sector. It does recognize the importance of safer and more sustainable pest management and includes a commitment to reporting on the use of “specified pesticides.” However, the state already reports pesticide use, and high rates of pesticide applications have continued despite reporting requirements. What we need are clear reduction targets. 

California has the potential to be a leader in the fight against climate change and social injustice, but that won’t happen when our climate mitigation plans aren’t ambitious or given priority. As this Scoping Plan isn’t finalized yet, we’ll keep pushing hard for stronger goals that transition California toward a more equitable and less chemical-dependent food and farming system. 

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