RELEASE: Putting California on the High Road: A Jobs and Climate Action Plan for 2030

California Workforce Development Board

September 3, 2020
Contacts: Curtis Notsinneh,
Carol Zabin,



Sacramento, CA – With the pandemic-induced economic downturn and uncertainty hurting Californians across the state – and with the fires a reminder of the urgent need for climate action – the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) today submitted a new report to the Legislature highlighting a path forward for an economic recovery that advances the Administration’s high road principles of economic equity, climate resilience, and job quality.

Mandated in Assembly Bill 398 (E. Garcia, Chapter 135, Statutes of 2017), Putting California on the High Road: A Jobs & Climate Action Plan for 2030 presents recommendations on how to support California’s working families and high road employers as the state transitions to a carbon-neutral economy. The report offers a roadmap to ensure that major climate change policies and programs do not reproduce existing economic inequities, and instead lead to family-supporting jobs, career pathways for disadvantaged Californians, and comprehensive redevelopment for workers and communities dependent on fossil fuel industries.

By showing that some climate policies have already led to increased access to good jobs – and by pointing the way towards improvements in other state climate efforts – the report puts to rest the false choice of “jobs v. environment” and instead illustrates how we can have both.

“This report shows that strong labor standards and investments in industry-based training partnerships have created real pathways for workers from disadvantaged communities into middle-class careers that support the transition to carbon neutrality,” noted Tim Rainey, Executive Director of the California Workforce Development Board. “We can’t achieve equity without job quality, and regional partnerships are the means to delivering shared prosperity and achieving Governor Newsom’s goal of a California For All.”

Examining labor conditions in the industries affected by existing state climate policies, the report highlights the prevalence of blue-collar jobs in the key sectors that must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as energy, transportation, and manufacturing. In some instances, climate policies have led to improved conditions for workers. For example, the construction of grid-scale renewable energy generation and the manufacture of zero-emission transit buses have both broadened access to good jobs for low-income workers of color. However, low-wage jobs have persisted in other climate-critical industries including trucking, waste, residential energy efficiency and rooftop solar, and fire prevention.

“Just as California’s climate policies have led the nation in creating demand for zero-emission vehicles and renewable electricity, the state can send strong policy signals to ensure quality job creation in our transition to a carbon-neutral economy” said Dr. Carol Zabin, Director of the Green Economy Program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center and lead author of the report.

“We don’t need to accept the continued growth of low-wage jobs and racial and gender disparities. Public agencies are in a unique position to harness the power of public investment to ensure that climate policy supports good-paying jobs.”

Using Prop 39, SB 1, and other funds, the CWDB has created two major initiatives: High Road Training Partnerships (HRTP) and High Road Construction Careers (HRCC), which have revolutionized workforce development in California by building industry-led partnerships among employers, workers and unions, local workforce development boards, and community-based organizations. Putting California on the High Road: A Jobs & Climate Action Plan for 2030 highlights these initiatives as models for workforce development that promote equity and mobility for workers, skills and competitiveness for high road employers, and long-term environmental sustainability and climate resilience for the state.

The report calls for additional and more systematic partnerships between the CWDB and state agencies responsible for climate policy and programs, in order to incorporate policies that improve job quality and job access across all environmental sectors and climate investments. By presenting a comprehensive toolbox of labor standards and workforce development, the report aims to equip legislators and other policymakers with the information they need to integrate high road economic and workforce development strategies into climate change policies and programs.

The report comes amid growing calls for a just transition for workers and communities that will be impacted by job and revenue losses due to the announced closure of oil refineries in the Bay Area and Central Coast, as well as further evidence of the climate crisis with numerous wildfires across the state and heat waves that challenge the state’s electricity grid.

“Climate policy is economic policy: we will always need to produce electricity, move people and goods, and invest in resilient infrastructure across the state,” said Kate Gordon, Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor on Climate and Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR). “As we witness the current impacts of climate change and the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to forge a clear path forward that marries equity and environmental sustainability. This report can help put California on the high road to economic recovery so that we emerge from these crises more resilient and inclusive than before. Industry-led training partnerships will play a key role in facilitating comprehensive regional planning and economic diversification as we transition to a carbon-neutral economy over the long term, and are critical right now for ensuring equity, climate resiliency, and quality jobs.”