As state and federal policymakers work to address climate change through climate investments that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and build resilience—for instance, clean transportation, solar panels, urban greening, transit-oriented housing development—it is critical that investments are geared to support the communities that have been historically marginalized and left behind. California has piloted its own climate funding initiative–the California Climate Investments (CCI)--with an intentional emphasis on equity for the past 10 years. With nearly $10 billion of projects implemented through CCI as of November 2022, we sought to answer the following questions:

  • Where have CCI funding dollars gone, and who did they serve?

  • Has CCI centered marginalized communities— particularly low-income communities and communities of color—in its goals, processes, and outcomes?

  • What are strengths of the initiative that should be replicated and scaled? And what are shortcomings that should be addressed and avoided in the future?


  • The majority of implemented CCI dollars (73% of the $9.2 billion implemented as of November 2022) are landing in and providing some benefit to Priority Populations—highly pollution-burdened, low-income communities, and low-income households—by being located within these places and meeting the State’s “benefits” checklist.

  • Many interviewed statewide environmental advocates and leaders were not aware of the suite of programs supported by CCI. At the local level, many interviewed members of community-based organizations and environmental advocacy groups were not aware of CCI-funded projects landing in their communities.

  • The “felt impact” of investments—the visibility and perceived usefulness and impact of investments to local people—appears strongest when projects are community-driven and well-coordinated (e.g., programs such as Transformative Climate Communities, Community Solar, and Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities).

  • The ecosystem for climate justice in California—advocacy groups, alliances and coalitions, policy research groups, values-aligned funders, and more in support of community-based, power-building organizing institutions —has made the design and outcomes of climate investments more equitable over time by continuously advocating for funding from the state, monitoring programs’ design and outcomes, pushing for improvements, helping to steer resources towards communities with the greatest needs, and implementing projects in alignment with community-based vision.

Implications for Policy and Practice

As funding for climate investments are made available at the federal level and in other states, public agencies (and philanthropic funders, where appropriate) should focus on: 1) supporting community-driven projects 2) making investment outcomes known and visible and 3) funding local power-building organizations and those in local environmental justice ecosystems to ensure sustained capacity. Additional recommendations can be found in the report.