2023: A Year of Unfinished Business

⬇️ from a 91% score in 2022

California earns B grade for undercutting big wins with anti-environmental actions

The past two years have shown how much our leaders in Sacramento can accomplish when they have a climate vision, make it a priority, and work together. With the climate crisis worsening — California saw everything from atmospheric rivers and devastating flooding to deadly bomb cyclones and the hottest summer on record in 2023 — every year must be a huge year on climate justice, progress, and action. 

While California had some world-changing climate victories in 2023 like passing SB 253 (Wiener) and SB 261 (Stern), too often the state’s leadership did not meet the moment. In 2023, California took one step backward for every two steps forward, earning an overall B grade on climate action in the California Environmental Scorecard.

We have a lot to celebrate from 2023:

We have a lot to celebrate from 2023:

Corporate Leadership and Accountability

In a pivotal moment, SB 253 finally became law after a three-year effort. This new regulation, authored by Senator Scott Wiener, will require every U.S.-based corporation that does business in California and earns over $1 billion in annual revenue to publicly disclose their greenhouse gas pollution, including direct and indirect carbon emissions. Given California’s standing as the fifth-largest economy in the world, this policy will have not only national but also global impacts. 

The passage of SB 261, authored by Senator Henry Stern, was also a vital step toward transparency, mandating businesses to submit annual climate-related financial risk reports and to inform the public about the mitigation measures they are taking in the face of the climate crisis. Together, SB 253 and SB 261 will usher in a new era of accountability and responsibility in the corporate world.

EnviroVoters staff celebrates with legislators after the Assembly passes SB 253 and sends it to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

More Key Legislative Wins

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AB 3 (Zbur): Invests in offshore wind energy and good-paying jobs in California.

AB 126 (Reyes & Gonzalez): Guarantees funding to cut vehicle pollution in underserved communities.

AB 421 (Bryan): Reforms California’s referendum process to make voting with your values easier.

AB 631 (Hart): Holds oil companies accountable for oil spills and leaks.

AB 1167 (W. Carrillo): Makes Big Oil pay for cleaning up retired oil wells instead of taxpayers.

SB 337 (Min): Creates a plan for conserving 30% of California’s lands, waters, and oceans by 2030.

SB 389 (Allen): Ensures that water rights are fairly distributed to prevent disproportionate usage of this precious resource.

Regulatory Win

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed Advanced Clean Fleets in 2023, a game-changing rule that will require fleets that are well suited for electrification to transition to zero-emission vehicles by 2035. This is a critical step given that the transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in California and nationwide.

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Exciting and Effective Freshman Class of Climate Champions

Exciting and Effective Freshman Class of Climate Champions

There are so many new legislators who, despite 2023 being their first year in office, have gone above and beyond by voting in favor of every pro-environmental bill on the Scorecard. Their perfect voting record is something to celebrate, and their continued leadership on climate will be worth watching.

But there were some key anti-environmental actions in 2023 too:

But there were some key anti-environmental actions in 2023 too:

Cuts to Climate Budget

Cuts to Climate Budget

After committing to a $54 billion multi-year climate budget in 2022, Governor Newsom made $2 billion in cuts in 2023, and so far in 2024 has proposed another $4 billion in cuts. These cuts to critical investments in clean energy, transportation and building electrification, environmental justice programs, and community resilience undercut our state’s ability to meet our carbon emissions reduction laws and to protect communities from pollution, extreme heat, drought, flood, and catastrophic fires. This is especially shameful when at the same time we are wasting taxpayer dollars on tax subsidies and credits for oil companies that would be better spent on climate solutions.

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11 Key Bills Vetoed

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Governor Newsom vetoed 11 key environmental and democracy bills, raising concerns about the consistent deprioritization and delay of much-needed financing to fund climate solutions, meet emissions reduction goals, and protect communities. Bills he vetoed include AB 249 (Holden), a school lead testing and mitigation bill; AB 1248 (Bryan) to establish an independent redistricting commission to adopt district boundaries after each census; and SB 390 (Limón) to create carbon offset standards.

15 Key Bills Failed to Pass Legislature

There were 15 critical bills that the legislature failed to pass and send to the Governor’s desk. That list includes policies focused on clean air, water, transportation, and buildings, in addition to SB 252 (Gonzalez), which would have stopped California’s public pension funds for state employees and teachers from investing in fossil fuel companies. SB 252 was the only bill out of three in the corporate accountability package with SB 253 (Wiener) and SB 261 (Stern) that did not pass in 2023. California can’t truly be a global leader in the climate fight if it leaves critical climate solutions like these on the table.

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Destructive Water Policy

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Governor Newsom certified the environmentally destructive Sites Reservoir for judicial streamlining using SB 149 (Caballero). Building more reservoirs and dams is counter to what science says we need to conserve our resources, which is creating better groundwater management systems. SB 149 was part of the package of infrastructure streamlining budget trailer bills that the Governor jammed through the legislature without meaningful input or collaboration with the Legislature earlier in the year.

In 2024, California's lawmakers need to:

Fund the Transition

In 2024, we’re calling on our leaders to prioritize financing the transition toward clean transportation and building electrification, expanding public transit, and scaling clean energy development.

Hold Corporate Polluters Accountable

Corporate polluters rank highly among the significant threats to California’s immediate and long-term climate goals. We urge our leaders to channel California’s climate investments through passing a climate bond and through the state budget to support our climate goals and implement corporate emissions disclosure requirements like those created by SB 253 (Wiener). Furthermore, we urge California leaders to end the loopholes and subsidies that allow fossil fuel polluters to collect taxpayer handouts while raking in record profits. Policy change is needed to hold corporate polluters accountable as we transition to a clean energy economy.

Create Resilient Landscapes and Communities

Leaders in Sacramento and Washington must make and restore investments in protecting public lands and waters in communities of color so there is more equitable access to nature in our state, and treat conservation and resilience as solutions to the climate crisis rather than afterthoughts.

Electrify Buildings and Transportation

We must ensure that the electrification of our buildings is done in a way that keeps them affordable for Californians and is packaged with sufficient, long-term infrastructure investments. California also needs to increase investments in clean car rebates and charging infrastructure, rapidly expand transit, and advance active transportation infrastructure, starting with disproportionately polluted communities.

Scale Clean Energy. Strengthen Transmission and the Grid

We must transition our energy grid to 100% clean energy as fast, equitably, and resiliently as possible. This goes along with shutting down fossil gas plants and ensuring that communities have access to the cost benefits and air quality benefits of clean energy.

Strengthen and Protect Workforce Standards

As the climate crisis intensifies, creating good-paying union jobs in sustainable industries is critical. We also must transition the fossil fuel workforce in a way that protects workers, not only to prevent further harm but also to create new job opportunities and foster economic resilience.

In 2024, we will continue to make it clear:

Oil money is toxic. Corporate responsibility is key.

Oil money is toxic. Corporate responsibility is key.

We applaud the state for suing fossil fuel companies for their contributions to the climate crisis and how they deceived politicians and the public about their wrongdoings every step of the way. While we’re thrilled the percentage of state legislators who take oil money went down 17% from 2022 to 2023, more than half of the legislature (52%) still takes oil money, including 38% of Democrats. Corporate polluters continue to try to buy their influence in Sacramento — Oil and Gas spent over $34 million on campaigns and lobbying in 2022 alone. No serious conversation about climate action can leave out corporate disclosures and reductions. Corporate accountability must continue to be a priority in 2024.

How did we determine California's score?

California’s 2023 Environmental Score is a measure of how California did overall on advancing climate and environmental policy through legislation, the state budget, and actions from the Governor and his administration.

To calculate the California score, we tracked the outcome of 61 total environmental bills that were introduced in 2023, three major pro-environment actions the Governor’s administration took, and three major anti-environmental actions the state took. An extra +10% was added onto the overall score to account for the two major climate bills that passed into law, the Climate Corporate Leadership and Accountability Act (SB 253, authored by Senator Wiener) and the Climate Financial Risk Disclosure Act (SB 261, authored by Senator Stern), which deserve extra recognition due to their worldwide impacts.

BillFinal Result
AB 3 (Zbur) California Offshore Wind Energy & Jobs ActSigned into Law
AB 7 (Friedman) Climate & Equity Goals for Transportation InvestmentsFailed
AB 57 (Kalra) California Pocket Forest InitiativeVetoed

AB 126 (Reyes & Gonzalez) (Formerly AB 241 & SB 84) Clean Transportation Program Modernization

Signed into Law
AB 249 (Holden) School Lead Testing & MitigationVetoed
AB 285 (Luz Rivas) Pupil instruction: science requirements: climate changeSigned into Law

AB 292 (Pellerin) Primary elections: ballots

Signed into Law

AB 363 (Bauer-Kahan) Pesticides: neonicotinoids for nonagricultural use: reevaluation: control measures

Signed into Law
AB 398 (Pellerin) Voting: replacement ballotsSigned into Law
AB 418 (Gabriel) Food Product SafetySigned into Law
AB 421 (Bryan) Referendum ReformSigned into Law

AB 460 (Bauer-Kahan) State Water Board Emergency Interim Relief

AB 538 (Holden) Multistate regional transmission system organizationFailed

AB 545 (Pellerin) Elections: access for voters with disabilities

Signed into Law
AB 579 (Ting) Schoolbuses: zero-emission vehiclesSigned into Law
AB 585 (Robert Rivas) Climate change: infrastructure and clean energy projects: assessmentsSigned into Law
AB 593 (Haney) Pathway to Clean Energy BuildingsFailed

AB 626 (Pellerin) Voting: returning vote by mail ballots in person

Signed into Law
AB 631 (Hart) Community Safety and Protection ActSigned into Law

AB 652 (Lee) Department of Pesticide Regulation Environmental Justice Advisory Committee

Signed into Law
AB 664 (Lee) California Safe Drinking Water ActSigned into Law

AB 753 (Papan) State Water Pollution Cleanup and Abatement Account: annual proceeds transfers

AB 764 (Bryan) Local RedistrictingSigned into Law
AB 809 (Bennett) Salmonid populations: California Monitoring ProgramSigned into Law
AB 844 (Gipson) Zero-emission trucks: insuranceSigned into Law
AB 970 (Luz Rivas) Insurance: Climate and Sustainability Insurance and Risk Reduction ProgramVetoed

AB 985 (Arambula) Central Valley Air Pollution Credit Reform


AB 1000 (Reyes) Warehouse Good Neighbor Policy


AB 1167 (W. Carrillo) Orphan Well Prevention Act

Signed into Law
AB 1176 (Zbur) Local Electrification PlanningFailed

AB 1248 (Bryan) Local Independent Redistricting


AB 1305 (Gabriel) Voluntary carbon market disclosures

Signed into Law
AB 1322 (Friedman) Pesticides: second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide: diphacinoneSigned into Law
AB 1337 (Wicks) Curtailing Water Usage During ShortagesFailed

AB 1407 (Addis) Ocean Recovery & Large-Scale Restoration

AB 1628 (McKinnor) Microfiber FiltrationVetoed

SB 3 (Dodd) Discontinuation of Residential Water Services

Signed into Law
SB 49 (Becker) Renewable energy: Department of Transportation: evaluationSigned into Law

SB 52 (Durazo) Redistricting: large charter cities


SB 69 (Cortese) California Environmental Quality Act: local agencies: filing of notices of determination or exemption

Signed into Law
SB 77 (Umberg) Voting: signature verification: noticeSigned into Law
SB 233 (Skinner) Bidirectional EVsFailed
SB 244 (Eggman) Right to RepairSigned into Law
SB 252 (Gonzalez, Stern, Wiener) California Fossil Fuel Divestment ActFailed
SB 253 (Wiener, Gonzalez, Stern) Climate Corporate Leadership & Accountability ActSigned into Law

SB 261 (Stern, Becker, Gonzalez, Wiener) Climate Financial Risk Disclosure

Signed into Law
SB 314 (Ashby) County of Sacramento Redistricting CommissionSigned into Law
SB 337 (Min) Codifying 30×30: Land and Coastal Waters Conservation GoalSigned into Law

SB 389 (Allen) Surface Water Rights Verification

Signed into Law
SB 390 (Limón) Voluntary carbon offsets: business regulationVetoed

SB 394 (Gonzalez) Master Plan for Healthy, Sustainable, and Climate-Resilient Schools

SB 420 (Becker) Electricity: electrical transmission facility projectsVetoed
SB 527 (Min) Neighborhood Decarbonization ProgramFailed

SB 556 (Gonzalez) Health Protection Zones near Oil & Gas Wells

SB 619 (Padilla) State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission: certification of facilities: electrical transmission projectsVetoed
SB 674 (Gonzalez) statewide refinery fence line monitoring standardsFailed
SB 704 (Min) Coastal resources: California Coastal Act of 1976: industrial developments: oil and gas developments: refineries: petrochemical facilities: offshore windSigned into Law
SB 709 (Allen) Dairy Biogas Low-Carbon Fuel Standard RegulationsFailed
SB 745 (Cortese) The Drought-Resistant Buildings ActSigned into Law
SB 842 (Bradford) Attack on Price Gouging Penalty Law (Envirovoters opposed this bill)Vetoed (pro-environment)
SB X1-2 Price Gouging Penalty Signed into Law

* Linked bills above are used to determine legislators’ scores in addition to the overall California score