SACRAMENTO–Governor Gavin Newsom advanced an executive order enlisting California’s vast network of natural and working lands – forests, rangelands, farms, wetlands, coast, deserts, and urban green spaces – in the fight against climate change. 

A core pillar of Governor Newsom’s climate agenda, these novel approaches will help clean the air and water for communities throughout the state and support California’s unique biodiversity. 

“Once again, California is taking on the mantle of global climate leadership and advancing bold strategies to fight climate change,” said Governor Newsom. “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. 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.”

The order directs state agencies to deploy a number of strategies to store carbon in the state’s natural and working lands and remove it from the atmosphere. The order also sets a first-in-the-nation goal to conserve 30 percent of the state’s land and coastal water by 2030 to fight species loss and ecosystem destruction.

Specifically, state agencies are directed to pursue innovative actions, strategies and partnerships to maximize the full climate benefits of our natural and working land, through: Healthy soils management, including planting cover crops, hedgerows and compost applications;   

wetlands restoration to protect coastal areas; active forest management to reduce catastrophic risk and restore forest health; and boosting green infrastructure in urban areas like trees and parks. 

California’s lands provide an important resource in limiting the impacts of climate change while protecting the state’s communities from climate change-driven events such as wildfire, floods, droughts and extreme heat. The state’s natural and working lands sustain the economy, support our unique biodiversity and contribute to the global food supply. 

California is considered one of the world’s 36 “biodiversity hotspots” because of its high concentration of unique species that are also experiencing unprecedented threats. Of the estimated 5,500 plant species found in California, 40 percent are “endemic,” found nowhere else on Earth. California relies on 100 million acres of land for food, water and habitat, and feeds the nation and world through its agricultural activities. The $50 billion California agriculture industry produces over 400 commodities, including over a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts. 

 In advancing this executive order, California joins 38 countries to support the global effort to achieve protection for 30 percent of the planet by 2030. The executive order directs the California Natural Resources Agency to form a California Biodiversity Collaborative to bring together experts, leaders and communities to pursue a unified approach to protecting biodiversity and develop strategies to support the 30 by 30 goal. Through this inclusive stakeholder process, Californians will help chart the path forward to these critical conservation goals. 

The 30 by 30 has been championed internationally and is supported by a concerted United Nations effort. In addition, international NGOs and business groups – including the International Chamber of Commerce – wrote a letter in June calling upon CEOs to push governments to include ambitious policies to reverse nature loss as part of green recovery plans. The World Economic Forum recently calculated that $44 trillion of economic value generation – over half the world’s total GDP – is potentially at risk as a result of climate change and the dependence of business on nature and its services.

The executive action follows Governor Newsom’s executive order in late September to require that, by 2035, all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles.