Gov. Gavin Newsom report card update comes with low marks, significant room for improvement

by Katie Nelson

January 28, 2021

“The Newsom administration must confront the growing climate emergency, and as he moves into the second half of his gubernatorial term, Newsom himself must commit to concrete action. We cannot afford any more delay.” 

Sacramento, California — Today, on the heels of President Joe Biden’s landmark ‘climate day’ announcements, Greenpeace USA released its second climate report card for California Governor Gavin Newsom, evaluating his leadership on phasing out fossil fuels and protecting public health. [1] Despite California’s reputation as a climate and environmental leader, when it comes to reducing fossil fuel extraction and protecting impacted communities, Newsom’s performance is subpar and slipping. Greenpeace’s updated report card gives Newsom a D+, C-, and D-, respectively, for the policies laid out in Greenpeace’s rubric. These scores are down from a C-, C-, and D in last year’s grading process and show a marked decline in his climate and environmental justice performance in 2020.

Caroline Henderson, Senior Climate Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, said:

“California is at a crossroads, and as we enter 2021 the Governor must decide what kind of legacy he will leave and whose priorities he will serve. As his agencies drag their feet on public health protections for frontline communities while doubling new drilling permits to oil companies at the behest of fossil fuel lobbyists, it’s up to us to force Governor Newsom to answer the question: whose interests will you represent as governor?

“Climate-driven wildfires devastated communities across California in 2020, and yet even as Newsom touted climate change as one of his top priorities, he continued to fuel these flames by doubling oil and gas drilling permits. Just as President Biden has chosen to prioritize climate justice actions in his first days in office, Governor Newsom must also decide whose interests he’ll prioritize. Newsom should follow Biden’s promising first step towards halting fossil fuel expansion by hitting the brakes on new oil and gas permits here in California.

“The Newsom administration must confront the growing climate emergency, and as he moves into the second half of his gubernatorial term, Newsom himself must commit to concrete action. We cannot afford any more delay.”

Gov. Newsom’s updated climate score is as follows:

  1. STOP! Stop issuing new permits for oil and gas projects: D+

  2. DROP! Drop existing oil and gas production and ensure a just transition for workers and affected communities: C-

  3. ROLL! Roll out a 2,500-foot public health and safety buffer to protect communities located near drilling sites and other fossil fuel infrastructure: D- [2]

While Newsom has taken small steps toward addressing the harmful impacts of fossil fuel extraction, his second year in office was largely marked by backward progress.

Last fall, Newsom made a landmark commitment to phase out gas-powered vehicle sales by 2035 — yet throughout 2020, he failed to take equally meaningful action to address fossil fuel production. In 2020, his administration approved 116% more permits for new oil and gas production wells in California, compared to 2019, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that is even more deadly for communities living with fossil fuel pollution. [3]

After imposing a temporary moratorium on new permits for fracking or acidizing in 2019, and despite earlier campaign statements opposing fracking, Newsom handed out 128 new fracking permits in 2020 under a new scientific review process. [4] These permits went to the state’s largest drillers, Aera Energy and Chevron. The Governor also claimed not to have the legal authority to fully ban fracking himself, and called on the legislature to do so by 2024.

On New Years Eve, Newsom’s administration issued a new round of fracking permits and pushed back the deadline on an already-delayed process to protect frontline communities from harmful oil extraction — walking back his own executive order which committed to producing a draft plan by the end of 2020.


[1] The Newsom report card is available for review here.

[2] The criteria used to grade Governor Newsom’s climate progress in the next year comes from the Last Chance Alliance — a coalition of more than 750 public health, environmental justice, climate, and labor organizations united to urge Governor Gavin Newsom to end fossil fuel extraction across California and build a just climate future where every community can thrive.

[3] ‘Exploring the Link Between Pollution and COVID-19 Mortality’ (2020) from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health:

[4] ‘A sustainable world can start in California’ (2017) from now-governor Gavin Newsom:

To maintain independence, Greenpeace USA does not endorse or oppose any political party, candidate, or elected official. We work to hold all candidates for office to the standard that science says is necessary to avert climate crisis, which means supporting a Green New Deal and ending fossil fuels.


Katie Nelson, Strategic Communications Specialist, Greenpeace USA: +1 (678) 644-1681, [email protected]

Katie Nelson

By Katie Nelson

Katie Nelson is a Senior Communications Specialist at Greenpeace USA.

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