With our focus on climate this year, we jumped at the chance to learn from a diverse group of leaders, scientists, and activists at the Bay Area Climate Emergency Town Hall. Hosted by the City of Berkeley, which recently declared a climate emergency, the meeting encouraged “accelerated timelines for the elimination of GHG emissions” through an environmental justice perspective that offers pivotal solutions to climate change.
Opening remarks by the Mayor of Berkeley, Jesse Arreguin, confirmed that “this is not just an emergency, this is an emergency of our moral obligation to the world.” Vice Mayor, Cheryl Davila, welcomed Corrina Gould, a leader of the Villages of Lisjan and Ohlone, who shared sage wisdom and declared that if corporations have personhood, so should rivers, trees, animals, and all the natural systems that support human life. Later in the morning, Dr. Patrick T. Brown, Research Scientist at Stanford University, showed that climate change presents an unprecedented opportunity to have a positive impact on future generations.
This meeting was a first step to form a group for regional action to supplement efforts by the state and regional agencies like ABAG, MTC, and BAAQMD. Speakers included representatives from forward thinking municipalities and organizations across the Bay Area and the State.
- Oakland City Councilmember, Rebecca Kaplan, showed that exclusionary regulatory decisions have concentrated cancer causing air pollution in low-income neighborhoods. The city took steps to secure state funding to mitigate these impacts and encourages commuters to carpool over the Bay Bridge.
- Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan of Movement Generation showed that equity is the key to effective climate solutions. She challenged the audience to question whether proposed solutions have equitable impact or if they are false promises. Encouraging the audience to think as a collective and reminded us “it’s not just what we do but how we do it.”
- Andres Soto from Communities for a Better Environment discussed the health impacts from oil refinery operations on local residents and the overwhelming political influence of these private companies. In contrast, community owned energy, whether it is a solar installation or a community choice energy agency, supports the health and resilience of all residents.
- Santa Rosa City Councilmember, Jack Tibbetts encouraged municipalities to establish public banks to finance renewable energy and other infrastructure projects, to reinvest funds into local communities.
The program concluded with inspiration from Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz. In addition to establishing a Climate Justice Emergency Mobilization Department, Koretz launched Climate Mobilization LA, a public action campaign for a “just transition” to a carbon neutral community by 2025. The program combines the Climate Mobilization model with the Leap Manifesto, giving priority to the vulnerable communities that have faced the greatest impact from the fossil fuel economy. The project begins by mapping sites that are ripe for environmental justice action, then quantifying the benefits of eliminating harm. Next, come policies to make positive change happen within seven years, in collaboration with civil rights leaders trusted to ground-truth these plans.
We will continue to share news from leading organizations in our upcoming report on climate change action.