Oped by Mayor JESSE ARREGUIN |PUBLISHED: December 11, 2019 at 6:10 a.m. | UPDATED: December 11, 2019
With Trump’s retreat from Paris accord, Berkeley’s mayor says cities and the state must lead the fight
Last month, 11,000 scientists signed onto a study that showed that not only is human-caused climate change real, but it has become a global emergency. Just reading the news shows a world being impacted daily by climate change. We’ve recently witnessed flooding in Venice and fires in Australia, while California underwent yet another red flag warning.
All of this is happening while the United States has begun the process to become the only country in the world to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which is seen as a critical accord to prevent global temperatures rising above 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. The agreement seeks to keep the increase below 1.5 degrees. Reaching a 2 degree increase would result in irreversible damage to Earth’s climate.
In a time when climate change can no longer be ignored, the current White House administration has chosen to do just that. This has placed the burden of addressing climate change on states and cities.
California is taking up that mantle and Berkeley has a long history of being an environmental stalwart. We were the first city to implement curbside recycling in the early 1970s and the first to eliminate Styrofoam in the 1980s. More recently, we made headlines by becoming the first city to ban the use of natural gas in new construction.
In 2009, we approved our Climate Action Plan, which calls for our city’s greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 80% below 2000 levels by 2050. Over the past decade, we have realized we need to go further. At last year’s Global Climate Action Summit, I pledged to make Berkeley carbon-neutral by 2050. This is in addition to other goals we have set, including achieving 100% renewable energy by 2035.
Despite advancements we are making to promote environmentally friendly policies, we know that one city alone cannot solve climate change. With that understanding, I have joined over 300 California elected officials in signing onto a letter calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to do the following:
• End the issuance of permits for new fossil fuel projects, including permits for new oil and gas wells, infrastructure for fossil fuels, and petrochemical projects in California.
• Design a swift, managed decline of all fossil fuel production, starting with a 2,500-foot human health and safety buffer zone around all homes, hospitals, schools, playgrounds and farms to protect public health and address the severe environmental injustice of production in low-income communities and communities of color.
• Commit the state to 100% clean, renewable energy in all sectors, starting with significant investments in disadvantaged communities and areas that are already suffering the most from the worst impacts of fossil fuel extraction and climate change.
This letter, initiated by Elected Officials to Protect California, is just one step we are taking to face the realities of climate change. These proposals are necessary to protect the livelihood of our state that is becoming increasingly susceptible to the impacts of climate change.
From increased drought to floods, rising sea levels and intense wildfires, all of us are at risk from the consequences of climate change. The reality is we can no longer continue our reliance on fossil fuels while claiming to support environmental policy. We must choose whether we will go down a path of environmental sustainability or environmental destruction.
The window of opportunity to adequately address climate change to ensure that our future generations live on a planet that is sustainable and resilient is quickly closing. The time for action is now.
Jesse Arreguin is mayor of Berkeley