Press Release Final Speakers Announced for the SGC Catalyst Conference


Sacramento– The California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) today announced the final speakers for the 2023 Catalyst Conference, an inaugural event focused on building partnerships, frameworks, and solutions to implement the Justice40 Initiative in California and beyond. The event, hosted in partnership with the Milken Institute, will take place this week February 1-2 and bring together 300 leaders from across government, private and philanthropic funding, frontline communities, California Native American Tribes, academia, and advocacy to discuss opportunities to catalyze readiness and maximize near and long-term benefits of climate investments in frontline communities.

The event follows the release of both Governor Newsom’s Executive Order 16-22 and proposed $48 billion multi-year climate budget, which prioritizes continued funding for frontline communities and additional funding through the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“California has long been a leader in equitable climate investment through programs like Climate Change Investments, which to date has invested over $11 billion into disadvantaged communities statewide,” said Lauren Sanchez, Senior Climate Advisor for Governor Gavin Newsom. “As we continue to prioritize our most vulnerable communities, the Catalyst Conference will elevate best practices to direct climate investments where they’re needed most and strengthen partnerships across sectors to accelerate action.”

Panels and breakout sessions hosted during the conference will consider how to invest available state and federal funding by identifying specific obstacles communities in California face in accessing funding and implementing projects. Additionally, participants will contribute to investment criteria framework to ensure state and federally funded projects reduce pollution, minimize climate impacts, meaningfully engage communities, avoid displacement, create good-paying jobs, and advance other community priorities.

“With unprecedented federal and state investments now available, California has an incredible opportunity to build climate resilience and economic opportunity in communities in every corner of our state,” said Don Howard, President & CEO of the James Irvine Foundation. “The Irvine Foundation is honored to join leaders from across California and the nation at the SGC Catalyst Conference– to put work worker and community voice at the center in creating good-paying jobs and more pathways to the middle class as part of these once-in-a-generation public investments.”

Conference speakers include California Governor Gavin Newsom (pre-recorded remarks); Lauren Sanchez, Senior Climate Advisor at the Office of California Governor Gavin Newsom; Antonio Villaraigosa, Infrastructure Advisor at the Office of California Governor Gavin Newsom and former Mayor of Los Angeles; Don Howard, President and CEO of the James Irvine Foundation; Karthick Ramakrishnan, Executive Director, California 100; Jessica Buendia, Dream.Org Vice President of Sustainability and Green for All National Director; Emi Wang, Deputy Director of Capacity Building, the Greenlining Institute; Sheila Lewis, Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights; Felipe Escobar, Organizing Director at Pacoima Beautiful; Shasta Gaughen, Environmental Director and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Pala Band of Mission Indians; Dan Adler, Deputy Director for Climate Finance at California’s Infrastructure Bank (IBank); Michael Walsh, Deputy Director of Riverside County Housing and Workforce Solutions; Dawn Weisz, CEO of Marin Clean Energy; Pastor B.T. Lewis II, Liaison at the Office of Community Affairs for the City of Fresno; Jana Ganion, Director of Sustainability and Government Affairs for Blue Lake Rancheria; Lauren Grattan, Co-founder and Chief Community Officer of Mission Driven Finance; Henry Litman, Senior Director at Coalition for Green Capital; and Adam Browning, Executive Vice President of Forum Mobility; Elizabeth Carvajal, Housing and Economic Empowerment Manager of the Southern California Association of Governments; Judi Larsen, Managing Director of the California Endowment; Ryan Young, Policy Director of Green For All; Arnab Pal, Senior Advisor at the US Department of Energy; Sean Agid, Chief Business Officer of Community Infrastructure Partners; and Shawn Kerachsky, CEO and President of Community Infrastructure Partners.

Themes of the Catalyst Conference are organized around several models derived from SGC’s climate equity programs over the last decade. The Catalyst Model Hub, launched last week, includes best practices and template guideline language to inform climate equity funding programs across the public and private sectors. Through illustrative case studies including SGC’s Transformative Climate Communities and capacity building programs, the online hub offers guidance on building pre-implementation readiness, addressing barriers to access, and advancing community-led planning and development.

The 2023 SGC Catalyst Conference is hosted in partnership with the Milken Institute and sponsored by the James Irvine Foundation,, the California Endowment, Meta, the Blue Shield of California Foundation, Edison International, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), and ARUP.

Ticketing for the Catalyst Conference is now closed but livestreaming information is available at

Media Contact

Agustin Arreola, 279-386-2183

About the California Strategic Growth Council

The California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) is a 10-member council comprised of seven state agencies and three public members with the mission to build healthy, thriving, and resilient communities for all. Funded through California’s Cap and Trade system and the California General Fund, SGC’s grant programs, strategic initiatives, and interagency coordination focus on multi-benefit and community-centric solutions at the nexus of climate and equity. Since 2008, SGC has invested over $3 billion in projects strengthening communities and addressing climate change.