Tag Archives: Climate Justice

Report from Paris III: The aftermath … & what comes next


Martha Hawthorne on the scene in Paris.

SEIU 1021 activist Martha Hawthorne went to Paris in November as the local’s ambassador to the COP21 Climate Change Conference, which took place Nov. 20-Dec. 11. Her live reports appeared in the 1021 NewsWire, and now she’s taking her show on the road with a slideshow talk about her experience. Her first talk is Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the SEIU 1021 office in San Francisco.

Here’s her first report since her return:

It was exhilarating, exhausting, fascinating, sometimes scary, inspirational, and sobering all in one: two weeks in Paris as part of the international delegation of trade unionists attending the UN Climate Summit, or COP21.

I arrived on November 28, just two weeks after the terrorist attacks killed 130 people in a Paris neighborhood resembling Valencia Street in San Francisco. The French government had declared a three-month state of emergency, and all demonstrations were called off. The climate coalition of more than 100 groups (including French unions) that had been planning to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people was negotiating alternative actions with the mayor of Paris.

I saw shrines of flowers, flags, poems, and banners outside the restaurants and concert hall where the attacks took place, just blocks from where I was staying. I began meeting my fellow delegates as they flew in from Argentina, Brazil, the Philippines, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ghana, Tanzania, and many more countries.


Unionists from around the world wore these hats at the Human Chain event.

Language for justice and rights

Trade unionists who came from around the world had been working for years towards an agreement that included specific language for a “just transition and decent jobs.” Many coal miners and workers in extractive industries face losing their jobs with no alternative as a result of climate change. The US delegation — which included AFL-CIO leaders and the Blue Green Alliance (of which SEIU is a member) — all lobbied heavily for this language to be included in the “operational” part of the agreement.

Unionists united with environmental groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to include human rights, gender rights, and indigenous rights as a central part of the accord. We even put on the first ever demonstration within the official “Blue Zone.”

However, thanks to maneuvering by the United States, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and a number of other countries, this core language ended up only in the preamble to the draft final agreement (download link below; see page 20). A big disappointment! Here’s the text of the “just transition and decent jobs” language:

“Taking into account the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities,

“Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”

Full text of Paris Agreement on Climate Change (PDF)

A step forward, but to where?

On December 12 an international accord was signed. “That we have any agreement at all is testament to the mighty movement that activists around the world have built over the last five years,” according to Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and a featured speaker at our SEIU 1021 convention last October.

A step forward, but far less than what is needed to save the world from the ravages of extreme weather, rising sea levels, unprecedented droughts and island nations that will disappear forever. The agreement affirms a goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, but as Trade Unions for Energy Democracy contend, “The deal falls short in terms of commitments on emissions, financing, human rights and just transition. The core concerns of unions and social movements remain in the preamble and not the operative agreement.”

housands of pairs of shoes were laid out in a public square to symbolize those who planned to march for climate Justice before the terrorist attacks led to the cancellation of public gatherings. These are the shoes Martha left behind.

Thousands of pairs of shoes were laid out in a public square to symbolize those who planned to march for climate justice before the terrorist attacks led to the cancellation of public gatherings. These are the shoes Martha left in the square.

We knew long before getting to Paris that the non-verifiable pledges from all countries put together add up to a 3 degree C degree rise in temperature! That has not changed. Now it’s more obvious than ever: It’s up to us to hold governments to their goals! We all must work to keep fossil fuels in the ground, move rapidly to renewable, sustainable, and democratically controlled forms of energy, and challenge corporate power that fights our movement at every turn.

Sharan Burrow, head of the International Trade Union Confederation (which represents 180 million workers in 162 countries), said, “Climate justice requires us to leave no one behind in what is now a race against time.

The world, California, and our union

We see the seriousness of the climate emergency all around us in California. Our drought is part of the big picture, and our fellow SEIU 1021 members who lost homes to the recent wildfires are a warning to us all.

There is much we can be doing here to make a difference, thinking globally and acting locally. We can be working to divest fossil fuel industries from our pension plans, stopping the coal terminal planned for the Port of Oakland, join in the movement for moratoriums on fracking in California — and all the while educating our members to the urgency of climate change.

Get involved

I have been nominated to chair a local-wide SEIU 1021 Environmental and Climate Justice Committee to work on these issues. If you would like to get involved, reach out to me at marta222@sbcglobal.net.

I am also doing photo and video presentations of my experiences at COP21 and the Trade Union Forum to SEIU 1021 chapters and community groups. The first one takes place on Tuesday, February 16, at the local’s San Francisco office. Contact me to set one up in your area.

See Martha Hawthorne’s COP21 photo album.

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Report from Paris II: Labor weighs in on climate change

Ever since the first climate change conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, moving the powers-that-be to do something about it has been an uphill battle. The oil and coal companies that benefit most from the emissions causing global warming have financed climate deniers and blocked progress at every step. But the 21st conference on climate change going on now in Paris is changing that, maybe even in time to make a difference.

SEIU 1021’s official representative in Paris, retired nurse Martha Hawthorne, is in Paris now and sending back dispatches from the front lines there:

So much is happening in Paris around the climate conference. For every action and workshop I go to, I miss 10! Public actions are planned every day. The state of emergency imposed here after the Nov.13 terrorist attacks means that gatherings more than two people are illegal.

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy hosted an event for union members and the public with journalist/activist Naomi Klein and UK Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn drew 200 union members and 400 other public members. The wait list was over 500. I am a volunteer for the event, doing welcome registrations because I speak English, French and Spanish.

I attended a panel on world migrations that put immigration issues into context. People the world over are migrating due to wars and climate changes.

For instance, water rise in Bangladesh, the disappearance of farmland, and starvation are creating climate refugees, now mostly within continents. They are projected to go up to one billion. Right now climate refugees have no UN refugee status.

Flooding, drought and heat waves are also huge issues in Europe. Mitigation and planning require huge investments of public money. Therefore more and more unions are demanding one million new public and green jobs, defined as NOT nuclear and NOT fracking.

Labor is weighing at the Paris talks. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) hosted a panel on worldwide migrations, minimum salaries for all, and ways to move toward a just transition.

Many climate activists in Paris are concerned the language committing the parties to a just transition to a low carbon future from the mandate for action in the Summit’s conclusions is being undermined or removed from the final agreement. The ITUC issued this press release laying out their concerns:


Climate Summit in the Balance as Governments Waver on “Just Transition”

Brussels, 3 December 2015 (ITUC OnLine): Governments at the Paris climate summit are putting the future of climate action at risk by removing a commitment to human rights and “Just Transition” to a low carbon future from the mandate for action in the Summit’s conclusions. The Norwegian government has angered trade unions, environment groups and other civil society organisations by moving to delete the pledge to respect rights and engage with workers and their communities in the fight to keep the rise in global temperature below 2 degrees C. Other governments are believed to be backing Norway’s move, which would downgrade the pledge to a hollow reference in the preamble to the Summit conclusions.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said from the Summit, “No matter how much progress is made on the other issues being discussed in Paris, climate action will founder if governments think solutions can simply be imposed on people without fully engaging workers and communities in a common effort for industrial transformation and shaping a future where human rights and workers’ rights are respected. Trade unions everywhere are ready to engage. They are already doing so in their workplaces and industries and we need governments to put this at the centre of actions, not leave it as a vague reference that will mean that people are left out of the operational equation. There may be some in the business world who are happy for people, including their workforce, to be left on the sidelines, but there are many businesses that understand they must collaborate, not dictate.”

The ITUC is calling on the Summit Co-Chairs, Peru’s Manuel Pulgar Vidal and France’s Laurent Fabius, to ensure that the move to delete the pledge is stopped.

“The outcome of this Summit must be relevant to the real world, to real people, and not just satisfy the bureaucratic mind-set of government negotiators who seem to be out of touch with what is already happening and what still needs to be done in factories, farms, offices and other workplaces across the planet. Climate action needs to be done with people, not against them,” said Burrow.

The ITUC represents 180 million workers in 162 countries and territories and has 333 national affiliates.
Follow us on the web: http://www.ituc-csi.org and http://www.youtube.com/ITUCCSI

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Report from Paris I: Global support for climate agreement

8-12-1_Eiffel-TowerEver since the first climate change conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, moving the powers-that-be to do something about it has been an uphill battle. The oil and coal companies that benefit most from the emissions causing global warming have financed climate deniers and blocked progress at every step. But the 21st conference on climate change going on now in Paris is changing that, maybe even in time to make a difference.

SEIU 1021’s official representative in Paris, retired nurse Martha Hawthorne, is in Paris now and sending back dispatches from the front lines there.

I timed my arrival in Paris to get there just in time for the mass march in support of the goals of the conference, an action that the CoalitionClimate21, representing over 100 organizations, including NGOs, environmentalists, international solidarity groups, unions, and religious groups expected to draw some half a million people from all over Europe into the streets of Paris the day before COP21 began. But the terrorist attacks of Nov. 13 changed those plans.

The French government banned all demonstrations and mass gatherings since it couldn’t guarantee security. After much negotiating with the authorities, the coalition changed plans and decided on a symbolic action of placing shoes at the Place de la Republique – right on the doorstep of the climate talks and where the mass mobilization was to take place – representing those who wanted to march.

Even so, the world saw the largest climate mobilization ever. SEIU International’s delegate in Paris reported:

In 2300 events in 175 countries, over 570,000 people have gathered, cycled, marched and danced spreading their message for a fairer, cleaner, safer world. People of faith, impacted people, the young and old, activists, development workers, and trade unionists, all joined together to show that they have been driving and demanding the transition.

Records were broken in more than 10 countries which saw their biggest-ever climate marches with Australia (140,000, including 60,000 in Melbourne), India (140,000) New Zealand (33,000), Bangladesh, Britain (over 50,000 in London), Italy (over 20,000 in Rome), Spain (over 20,000 in Madrid), Denmark (over 10,000 in Copenhagen), Greece (over 3,000 in Athens), Switzerland (over 5,000 in Geneva), and Austria (over 2,000 in Vienna).

Events took place in countries as diverse as Mongolia, Saudi Arabia and Samoa. A march took place in Sanaa, Yemen, despite bombs falling close to the start of the march; nuns marched in South Korea; there were powerful marches in the the Pacific islands — New Caledonia and the Marshall Islands. People marched in cities in Senegal, the Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria; while in Kenya, there was a march across the Equator.

Pope Francis’ envoy said of the marches: “The Pope is in spirit with hundreds of thousands today, hand in hand with the poor and those who seek climate justice.”

And in his opening address to world leaders, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed: “The peoples of the world are also on the move. They have taken to the streets, in cities and towns across the world, in a mass mobilization for change… They expect each and every one of you to show leadership equal to the test. History is calling.”

World leaders step up

The heads of the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases countries, the US and China, came to Paris to acknowledge their offenses and publicly commit to at least some of the most important goals of the summit.

President Barack Obama reaffirmed America’s commitment to technology, innovation and clean energy. He backed the goal of helping the most vulnerable prepare for climate change, and met with Island nations that are most at risk. He said we need to go towards a low-carbon future and create new jobs with new investment.

The next generation is watching, he said and we need to tell them that we are listening and care about the future.

Xi Lining of China called for a binding agreement and sustainable development. He called for helping developing countries address poverty and for developed countries to commit to delivering $100 billion a year by 2020 and more after that. And he made commitments to reduce China’s emissions.

Labor weighs in

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) — representing 180 million workers in 162 countries and territories — is leading a delegation of 400 trade union members from 100 countries at the Paris summit. They have three demands for governments they believe are essential to any successful climate change agreement:

  • Raise ambitions and realize job potential of climate action
  • Deliver on climate finance and support the most vulnerable
  • Commit to security – a just transition for workers and their communities. Develop transparent plans for decarbonization and jobs with workers and civil society.

“People need security, and the transition to a zero carbon future must be a just transition. The measures required to train, redeploy and secure pensions for workers in fossil fuels and other vulnerable industries must be in place,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC. “Reinvestment in affected communities is essential. There are no jobs on a dead planet, but there is no hope and no economy without jobs – a just transition is vital to sustainability.”

Back in the US, SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry issued this statement upon the opening of the Climate Conference in Paris.

“As part of the largest healthcare and service sector union in America, SEIU members, including the delegation of members in Paris for COP21, know first-hand the life-threatening impacts caused by the pollution that has led to climate change and by the extreme weather and food and water impacts that have resulted from it. They see it in their patients, too many of them children, who come to be treated for asthma, respiratory aliments and other climate related health calamities. And they see it in their workplaces and neighborhoods where the devastating impacts of pollution, droughts, wildfires, floods, vector-borne diseases, and poor air and water supply and quality disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income communities the world over.

“Working and poor families across the globe are bearing the brunt of the impacts of climate change. For them the threat is real and the time for bold action from world leaders is now.

“As world leaders gather over the next two weeks in Paris at the U.N.’s COP 21 climate talks, they must move beyond talk toward action with bold commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are executed with accountability and transparency, that support a just transition for impacted workers and their families and that mobilize financial support for developing nations.”

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Climate Justice: The Paris conference begins

8-12-1_Eiffel-TowerAmong the participants at the COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris is Martha Hawthorne, an SEIU 1021 retired nurse and activist. Today the 1021 NewsWire brings you the first of her reports. Follow the NewsWire’s climate justice coverage on the web here In Solidarity.

Grist: “The Paris climate negotiations, explained”

Watch this entertaining and educational short video for a great primer on the Paris climate conference. Is the end of the world coming? Grist will be reporting from Paris to let us know.

LA Times: “California’s Paris delegation: Who’s going and who’s paying?”

Sacramento Bee: “California to Paris: Take our ideas, send money”

When Gov. Jerry Brown and a group of state lawmakers arrive in Paris this week for international climate talks, their primary role — while world leaders try to hammer out an accord — will be to promote California’s aggressive greenhouse gas reduction policies on a world stage. …

But there are other reasons to make the trip. “What we want to bring back to California, obviously, is more investment capital,” (Senate President Pro Tem Kevin) de León said.

The Nation: “Making the Paris Climate Talks Count”
Video report by Naomi Klein

It’s a classic case of the shock doctrine in action: In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks on Paris earlier this month, the French government is using that crisis to try to silence the climate justice activists who have converged on the capital city for this week’s COP21 climate conference. But this time it’s not working.

“What we’re seeing here is a show of defiance,” she reported on the first day of the conference.

In the first of Naomi Klein’s video dispatches from the front-lines of the Paris climate justice protests, produced by Mediapart and The Nation, Klein explains that at the bottom of all the jargon that will be thrown about this week are human lives — lives that are already being impacted by climate change. If these talks fail to produce substantive changes to our carbon-intensive economy, those lives will only be in greater danger.

48 Hills: “The Agenda: A climate-change solution in SF?”

The (conservative) economists who worry about the impacts of rapid reductions in the use of fossil fuels ought to be worried about something else, he noted: Many of the world’s biggest and most important cities are going to be underwater in 30 years if things don’t change quickly. That will have a much greater impact on the global GDP (and the profits of big corporations) than a modest reduction in emissions.

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Climate Justice: SEIU joins thousands in Oakland … and Paris

8-11-4_Martha-HawthorneSeveral thousand people took to the streets of Oakland on Saturday, Nov. 21, to show support for successful climate change agreements at the global climate conference opening in Paris next week. The action began at Lake Merritt’s amphitheater, festively festooned with colorful costumes, banners and signs. The throng marched through downtown to Oscar Grant Plaza for a rally in front of City Hall.

The 2015 United Nations Conference of Parties — also know as COP21 — takes place Nov. 30-Dec. 11, and is the 21st yearly gathering attempting to find a fair consensus on how governments and people around the world can adopt measures that would limit global warming to less catastrophic levels.

For the first time in more than 20 years of UN negotiations, the aim of this conference is to reach a universal and legally binding agreement on climate. The conference is expected to attract 50,000 participants, including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

We’ll always have Paris

Among the participants will be SEIU 1021. The local’s Executive Board is sending Martha Hawthorne (pictured above at 11/21 Oakland rally), an SEIU 1021 retired nurse and activist, to represent the local at the Conference of Parties. We’ll be bringing you her reports in the 1021 NewsWire.

“The state of emergency following the terrorists attacks in Paris last week may close down the huge street marches planned for the opening and closing of the conference, demonstrations that are projected to have hundreds of thousands participating and showing their support for strong agreements,” said Hawthorne. “So this action in Oakland, and many more planned in cities around the world this coming weekend, are needed to show the breadth of support.”

SEIU 1021 has taken a strong stand on climate issues, stepping out front with the San Francisco and Alameda Labor Councils to sponsor the “Nor Cal Climate Mob” in Oakland. Many other local unions, environmentalists, and a multitude of social justice activists joined the action Saturday. Labor is expected to take an active role in the Paris conference as well. The International Trade Union Confederation has called for the goal to be “zero carbon, zero poverty,” and ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow has repeated that there are “no jobs on a dead planet.”

See photos of the Oakland Climate Mobilization on our Facebook page.

Yes!: “Energy Democracy: Inside Californians’ Game-Changing Plan for Community-Owned Power”

Back in 2002, in the wake of the Enron-induced crash of California’s electricity system — which to this day has left rate-payers bailing out the utility companies — California passed AB 117, the Community Choice Aggregation law. …

The new program is a hybrid between a public agency and a private utility. The utility owns the distribution infrastructure, but the public is in the driver’s seat regarding energy decisions.

Grist: “The Paris climate negotiations, explained”

Watch this entertaining and educational short video for a great primer on the Paris climate conference. Is the end of the world coming? Grist will be reporting from Paris to let us know.

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Climate Justice: Paris, oil money, wildfires, and the coming water wars

The Nation: “The Future of Climate Change Is Widespread Civil War”

At the end of November, delegations from nearly 200 countries will convene in Paris for what is billed as the most important climate meeting ever held. Officially known as the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP-21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the 1992 treaty that designated that phenomenon a threat to planetary health and human survival), the Paris summit will be focused on the adoption of measures that would limit global warming to less than catastrophic levels. …

A failure to cap carbon emissions guarantees another result as well, though one far less discussed. It will, in the long run, bring on not just climate shocks, but also worldwide instability, insurrection, and warfare. In this sense, COP-21 should be considered not just a climate summit but a peace conference — perhaps the most significant peace convocation in history. … a kind of preemptive peace conference, one that is taking place before the wars truly begin.

Capital & Main: “Paradise Burned: How Climate Change Is Scorching California”

The September inferno was dubbed the Valley Fire and it killed four people, destroyed 1,958 homes and other structures, and caused $1.5 billion in damages. Its name would join a lengthening roster of mega-blazes with names like Witch Fire, Station Fire, Rim Fire and Butte Fire. For firefighters these represent a new kind of fire that is devastating California and other states west of the Rockies. To climate and environmental scientists, they are evidence that global warming is creating a new and vastly expanded fire danger to the West. …

Max Moritz, a University of California, Berkeley environmental scientist who has studied wildfires for decades, tells Capital & Main, “Climate change is taking its toll. There is a likely link between climate change and the sizes and spread rates of this year’s wildfires.” …

By virtually all accounts the length of the wildfire season in California and the Western United States has grown. According to a report by Climate Central, an organization that studies changing climate and its impacts, the Western wildfire season has grown from five months on average in the 1970s to seven months today. During those years temperatures for spring and summer have risen and, Climate Central reports, mountain snowpacks are melting earlier, which leaves forests drier for longer periods of time. …

This year’s California wildfires are part of a worldwide phenomenon. The Aon Benfield report notes, for instance, that “Wildfires continued to burn in Indonesia’s Sumatra and Kalimantan regions as the worst year for wildfires since 1997,” causing an estimated $4 billion in losses in terms of lost agriculture production, destruction of forest lands, health, transportation, tourism and other economic endeavors.

California Playbook: “Greasing The Palms”

Oil industry’s “massive spending” detailed by Sacramento Bee’s Jeremy B. White: “Oil companies that succeeded in weakening a California climate change bill massively increased their lobbying spending during the final chunk of the Legislature’s calendar, shelling out nearly $11 million to persuade lawmakers and to run a media campaign.

“A centerpiece of Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats’ agenda, Senate Bill 350 became the target of a fierce opposition campaign from oil companies that targeted Democrats considered politically vulnerable and warned about gas rationing. In the end, bill backers succumbed, removing a provision that would have mandated a 50 percent cut in petroleum usage.

“Newly filed lobbying disclosures illuminate the scope of the industry’s blitz from the start of the July to the end of September, a period that encompasses the frantic final stretch of the legislative session.

Sacramento Bee: “Oil industry’s spending surged as it fought California climate bill”

Oil companies who succeeded in weakening a California climate change bill massively increased their lobbying spending during the final chunk of the Legislature’s calendar, shelling out nearly $11 million to persuade lawmakers and to run a media campaign.

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Climate Justice: California on the march

This month, Oakland will once again host a major climate justice march and rally to unite people around this literally life-and-death issue. The event is timed to take place shortly before the start of the 3-week United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (Nov. 20-Dec. 11).

Northern California Climate Mobilization (Nov. 21, 2015)

SEIU 1021’s Peace & Solidarity Committee led our local’s contingent at the People’s Climate Rally at Oakland’s Lake Merritt on Sept 21, 2014. Look for the SEIU 1021 union banner on Nov. 21 to march with other members from Lake Merritt to 14th and Broadway.

We hope to see you at the Northern California Climate Justice Mobilization on Saturday, Nov. 21. It’s sponsored by: SEIU 1021, SEIU 521, San Francisco Labor Council, Alameda Labor Council, California Nurses Association, UFCW Local 5, 350 Bay Area, Sierra Club Bay Chapter, and more.

In the meantime, the article below from the respected investigative journalism site CALmatters will give you an excellent and comprehensive overview of California’s world-leading environmental change policies. If you’re new to the issue of climate justice or just want to deepen your knowledge, you’ll want to read and bookmark this story for reference.

CALmatters: “What is California’s Climate Change Plan?”

For decades, California has been a leader on environmental and climate change policies, including the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate in 1990 and a “Clean Car” bill in 2002 that became a model for the National Fuel Efficiency Standards that President Obama announced in 2012. The California Air Resources Board said recently that 40 years of energy efficiency policies have saved $74 billion in electricity costs, and broader climate policies will, in the future, cut in half the costs and greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles.

The impact on global climate change is small, since California produces just 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But the state’s policies are so far ahead nationally that California expects to meet President Obama’s Clean Power Plan 10 years before the federal deadline.

Northern California Climate Mobilization (Nov. 21, 2015)

Northern California Climate Mobilization (Oakland, Nov. 21, 2015)

Northern California Climate Mobilization — Saturday, Nov. 21

Event Website  |  RSVP on Facebook

  • 10:30a – Meet at Lake Merritt Amphitheatre (south end of lake, near Oakland Museum)
  • 12 noon – March to Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza
  • 1p – Rally in front of City Hall

Learn More About Climate Justice Issues

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Climate Justice: The Pope, the planet, and the tipping point

CalMatters: “What’s left of California’s Climate Change policy? A lot.”

The Legislature may have scuttled the centerpiece of Gov. Jerry Brown’s climate change plans, but it still approved ambitious new environmental policies that will impact the economy and life of Californians. …

Brown and Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) will bring almost unparalleled accomplishments to a major international climate-change conference in Paris this December.

EcoWatch: “Get Ready for the Real Climate Wars”

There is no priority higher for the oil industry than blocking Brown’s goal of reducing the state’s oil consumption by 50% by 2030. It is an existential threat to the oil industry, because if the state that invented the freeway can do without oil, so can the world.

NY Review of Books: “The Pope and the Planet”
By Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org

On a sprawling, multicultural, fractious planet, no person can be heard by everyone. But Pope Francis comes closer than anyone else. … So no one could have considered more usefully the first truly planetary question we’ve ever faced: the rapid heating of the earth from the consumption of fossil fuels. …

Francis’s words fall as a rock in this pond, not a pebble; they help greatly to consolidate the current momentum toward some kind of agreement at the global climate conference in Paris in December. …

Above all, the empirical data about climate change make it clear that the moment is ripe for this encyclical. A long line of gurus, of whom Francis is the latest, is now converging with a large number of contemporary scientists; instead of scriptures, the physicists and chemists consult the latest printouts from their computer models, but the two ways of knowing seem to be making the same point. …

It’s quite possible — probable, even — that the pope will lose this fight. He’s united science and spirit, but that league still must do battle with money.

Fresno Bee: “Editorial: Perhaps Pope Francis will light the path to reconciliation”

Pope Francis’ visit to the United States this week won’t include California. It’s a missed opportunity. Rarely has such a secular blue state had so much in common with a spiritual leader. …

We welcome him, and hope his presence brings more of the nation around to a more Californian viewpoint during his trip, which coincides with Climate Week.

University of California: “The war on climate change: Are we at a new tipping point?”

“I told him that the poorest 3 billion people are going to suffer the worst consequences of climate change, even though they had very little to do with that pollution,” he said. The pope asked what he could do about it, so Ramanathan asked him to please ask people in his speeches to be better stewards of the planet. …

“An alliance between science, religion and policy could be the tipping point we need toward real action on climate change,” Ramanathan said, and momentum seems to be building.

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Climate Justice: Will California lead the way, or not?

Sacramento Bee: “Dan Morain: How oil won the battle for SB 350”

Faced with demands made by industry and well-greased Assembly members from his own Democratic Party, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León concluded last week that he had no choice but to gut the most significant part of his Senate Bill 350, the sections that sought to force a 50 percent reduction in oil use. …

[Assemblyman Adam] Gray is one of 20 or so Assembly Democrats who call themselves moderates [see story below], and held out against the petroleum reduction in SB 350. As near as I can tell, being a moderate has little to do with their stands on social issues, or their willingness to challenge the core of Democratic support, public employee unions; they aren’t.

Rather, the definition seems to revolve around a willingness to accept campaign money from oil, tobacco or anyone else, and their malleability when donors come calling.

Sacramento Bee: “A rising force, moderate Democrats put their stamp on California legislative session”

On the final day of the session Friday, Democrats who dominate the California Assembly labored to pass a watered-down measure expanding the state’s unpaid family leave policy. …

But the level of persuasion needed to advance even weakened legislation underscores the influence of moderate Assembly Democrats — a loosely formed group elected with the help of corporate interests. Their mark was most indelible on the just-completed session, where time after time they thwarted liberal legislation, from climate change to minimum wage. … Moderates significantly altered or blocked several bills.

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Climate Justice: California burns, Washington fiddles

LA Times: “Where The Drought Has Brought Head Start To A Stop”

The gutted cinder-block homes slated for demolition in the western Fresno County town of Five Points are a haunting symbol of [Diana] Toscano’s struggle during one of the worst droughts in California’s history: finding enough children to keep the local Migrant Head Start Center from shutting its doors. …

“The kids have left. Look at all the families that had to leave this area because there is no water,” Toscano said as she toured the abandoned homes. “They could have been at our center.”

SF Gate: “Jerry Brown says ‘California is burning,’ climate change to blame”

Brown traveled to the scorched hillside at Cowboy Camp, just off fire-ravaged Highway 20, and, as helicopters circled nearby, said the fire illustrates that climate change is both real and destructive. The message, he said, isn’t getting through. Asked what he would tell presidential candidates on the day of the Republican debate, Brown was emphatic.

“California is burning,” he said. “What the hell are you going to do about it?

“This is a wake-up call. We have to start coming to our senses. This is not a game of politics. We need to limit our carbon pollution. These are real lives and real people. This problem cannot be solved year by year.”

Turlock City News: “Feinstein, Boxer Introduce Alternative Drought Bill with More Specific Environmental Protection”

Following the bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, the Western Water and American Food Security Act, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) have introduced similar legislation entitled the California Emergency Drought Relief Act, to address the drought while including more specific environmental protection provisions. …

The legislation, which has a focus on compliance with the existing Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act, has some of the provisions that originated in the largely-Republican House drought bill which seeks to address the drought with short and long-term provisions.

Sac Bee Editorial: “Feinstein-Boxer water bill offers some hope”

For all the pain this miserable drought has caused, perhaps some good could come of it. …

Although Republicans who control Congress will have their say, the Feinstein-Boxer 147-page opus includes plenty to embrace, not the least of which is that it offers $1.3 billion for California’s water system, an important though modest sum in this large and thirsty state.

Mercury News: “Cap and trade: Is California a leader or a loner?”

Cap and trade is among the most pioneering — yet controversial — elements of California’s multi-layered approach to combating climate change. The program covers most major polluting industries and is generating billions of dollars for the state, money that must be poured into efforts to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Courts have so far upheld the approach in the face of legal challenges.

Yet the national reach of the program has fallen short of expectations. One Canadian province has joined, and another is working on it. But California remains the only state that charges almost every industry a price for emitting carbon.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, said former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, who carried Assembly Bill 32, the 2006 measure that led to cap and trade.

“The environmental community said, ‘Look, the reason why this has to be the most progressive bill is because once California passes a law, all of these other states are going to follow suit. All of them,'” Núñez said in a recent interview.

“The irony of this is that once the law passed in California, no one followed suit. No one.”

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