During the summer of last year, the Berkeley City Council—in an historic move—unanimously declared a State of Climate Emergency. The declaration spurred a citywide effort to end greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and transition to a local economy that is ecologically sustainable.
To this day, 500 cities across the globe have declared climate emergencies, approving their own emergency mobilization efforts to completely eliminate citywide greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030.
Local jurisdictions and cities are traditionally on the forefront of historic progressive movements, from the fight for a living wage to racial desegregation. Localities lead the charge often as a result of grassroots activists demanding change in their community.
While our Republican-controlled Congress continues to stall on the Green New Deal and other efforts to address our No. 1 global security threat—one expected to displace as many as 300 million people by 2050—city councils are assuming responsibility and taking actions to drive down emissions at an emergency speed.
Government officials can’t do it alone.
To keep global temperatures at a level that scientific experts deem safe for continued human existence, officials need prevailing popular opinion to be behind taking unprecedented action in a narrow window of time that is quickly vanishing.
Intensifying climate impacts, unabated, would dramatically destroy human health and development, land and sea food chain networks, and every ecosystem on our earth. The destructive and heartbreaking climate impacts we have witnessed in the Bay Area have included increased wildfire disasters, toxic air pollution, and the deterioration of our coastlines and wetlands, to name just a few.
Environmental groups like the Sierra Club, 350.org, and the Sunrise Movement, aren’t the only ones on the frontlines of the climate justice movement. Our climate crisis is not only an environmental issue, but a social justice issue that disproportionately affects those that live in poverty as well as communities of color.
We have recently witnessed the labor movement and climate justice movement finally unite behind a “Green Economy” that can combat climate change while also creating jobs and lifting people out of poverty.
It’s thanks to the efforts of faith-based groups, labor unions, public health organizations, and other community groups working in conjunction with environmental activists that California passed the landmark SB 100 last year. Introduced by climate hawk and former state Sen. President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, SB 100 will usher in 100 percent carbon-free electricity throughout California by 2045, a defining moment in our state’s continued resistance to the science-denying, environmental rollbacks of the Trump administration.
With special interests spreading undue influence at every level of our government—in our last election cycle alone, $24 million was poured into congressional races by the oil and gas industry—it’s up to grassroots activists from all social justice movements to collectively fight for the future of our shared planet.
A vote on May 20 by Santa Clara County’s oldest and largest Democratic club, the Silicon Valley Democratic Club, epitomized the urgency with which we must act.
With only 1 dissenting ballot, over 100 club members overwhelmingly agreed to endorse support and oppose positions on 33 state bills presented to them by the “SB100 Coalition” that worked to pass SB 100 last year. It was a record-breaking achievement in the club’s almost 40-year history.
From fighting federal rollbacks, to banning harmful pesticides, eliminating unnecessary barriers to residential solar installation, reducing waste and single-use plastic, and finally taxing fossil fuel extraction at a rate most other oil-producing states do, the club decisively agreed that the time to act is now.
This legislative cycle, we must continue to serve as a model for the rest of the U.S. and support aggressive policies that will protect our environment, the ocean food chain and the health of communities across California.
Hoi Poon and Tara Sreekrishnan both serve on the Silicon Valley Democratic Club’s Environmental Committee and the SB100 Coalition. Opinions in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].