Researchers at UC Berkeley and Berkeley Law, in a study commissioned by the nonprofit Next 10, found that California’s efforts to fight climate change added 41,000 jobs and $9.1 billion to the Inland Empire’s economy from 2010-2016. Many of these jobs were construction jobs that came from one-time construction investments in building renewable energy power plants. When accounting for the ripple effects of this economic activity, the researchers found that state climate change policies had resulted in $14.2 billion dollars in economic activity and 73,000 jobs in the region over the same period.
The researchers chose to study the Inland Empire, defined in this study as San Bernadino and Riverside counties, due to the unique environmental challenges the region faces. The Inland Empire has long been a hub for the transportation of people – bedroom community commuters spending hours on the freeway – and consumer goods. The region’s proximity to Los Angeles as well as the Inland Empire’s warehouse, logistics, and manufacturing activity combined with the region’s geography have come at an environmental cost. San Bernadino and Riverside counties consistently have the worst smog in the state, and Inland Empire residents are at greater risk for air-pollution related health problems.
The Inland Empire also faces economic challenges. The Inland Empire is one of the lowest-earning metropolitan areas in California, with over 17.5 percent of the region’s population living below the federal poverty line in 2015, compared to the overall 14.7 percent of California residents. The fragile environment and economy of San Bernadino and Riverside counties make the Inland Empire an important region in which to study the economic impact of California’s efforts to fight climate change.
The report makes a quantitative assessment of the economic impacts of four of California’s major climate programs and policies – cap and trade, the renewables portfolio standard (RPS), distributed solar programs, and invester-owned utility – and concludes that climate change policies have had a net positive economic effect on the region. There is still plenty of room for improvement, however, and the report makes several policy recommendations that range from creating a comprehensive program for transportation to developing programs that can help workers transition out of jobs greenhouse gas-emitting industries.