Council Approves Resolution Declaring a Climate Emergency


The council on Tuesday backed a consent item approving a resolution declaring a climate emergency.  The resolution was part of a concerted effort by a number of community members led by Lynne Nittler and Lorenzo Kristov and including, among others: Chris Granger, Robin Kozloff, Elizabeth Lasensky, Greg Miller, Steve Nyholm and Denise Peach.

Several of them spoke during public comment on Tuesday and a group of them calling themselves “The Raging Grannies of Davis” actually sang during their allotted time.  We later learned that, of the group who sang, only two had even been to a previous council meeting.

Lynne Nittler of Cool Davis told the council, “We are living in a time of climate emergency.  The urgency and scale dwarf everything else – even paid parking.”

Fortunately, she said, “We live in a proactive city willing to take on the challenge with a climate emergency declaration that is strong, inclusive and hopeful.”

She explained that their document, the first in the Sacramento Region, “is likely to be a model for nearby communities.”  She said, “We will need all residents to become active citizens as the grannies just did, as we implement this climate mobilization.  Widespread engagement creates the transformative power to drive the changes we must make for the sake of our whole community, our children, our biosphere.”

The staff report explained that this effort grew out of a statement from the Climate Mobilization Movement.  The group helped to craft a draft resolution that is specific to Davis, but using similar language to that used in other California cities as a guide.

At a meeting on January 27, 2019, city council members on the legislative subcommittee, Lucas Frerichs and Dan Carson, and city staff member Kerry Loux, met with the group to discuss the draft resolution.

The Climate Mobilization Movement, the staff report explains, “is a global network of people in North America, Europe and Australia dedicated to engaging the public and government agencies to prevent climate and ecological catastrophe by asking for a response to climate change and ecological destruction as an emergency.”

So far the cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Chico, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz, among others in California, have adopted Climate Emergency and Mobilization Resolutions, with Sacramento and West Sacramento working on their resolutions presently.

Staff writes: “There have been significant recent climate events that have impacted California and our Sacramento/Yolo communities in a direct manner. Scientific evidence shows that climate change is continuing to occur in California and is having significant, measurable impacts on the state and its people. An increasingly troubling story of accelerating rates of warming, record-breaking events, and species responses that have the potential to cause ecosystem disruptions has emerged.”

Among the incidents of concern:

  • High heat days
  • Deteriorating air quality
  • Public health impacts
  • Lasting droughts
  • Sierra forest tree mortality
  • Increased number and intensity of wildfires
  • Severe rainfall and resulting floods, mudslides

The resolution declares that “human activities have warmed the Earth to a point that threatens climate stability” and “critical tipping points must be avoided,” therefore the Davis City Council declares “we face an existential Climate Emergency that threatens our city, region, state, nation, civilization, humanity and the natural world” and commits “to taking significant action to move toward net municipal and community carbon neutrality in the short term, with maximum efforts to implement carbon reduction actions by 2030; and accelerate the existing 2050 Davis carbon neutrality goal to a 2040 target.”

Among other things, they pledge to “engage with the Natural Resources Commission and other commissions; community-based partner organizations including Cool Davis and Valley Climate Action Center; Sacramento Area Council of Governments, Capital Region Climate Readiness Collaborative and other regional agencies; and leverage the resources of the University of California, Davis to accelerate a robust update to the Davis CAAP and integration with the City’s updated General Plan.”

In addition, they pledge to continue to pursue renewable and clean energy options through the Valley Clean Energy and explore “administrative review and assessment processes to incorporate consideration of GHG reduction impacts/effects for all significant proposed policies, programs or actions approved by City Council.”

Councilmember Dan Carson, who served on the subcommittee along with Lucas Frerichs, clarified that there are “no emergency powers we’re declaring for ourselves.”  Instead, this outlines “a very Davis-oriented approach” that could drive the city to update their now 11-year old Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

The city will pledge to meet their GHG (greenhouse gas) reduction goals.  He noted the need to have more energy efficient automobiles and more efficient homes.  He noted that, while these can result in a greater upfront cost, they can reduce costs for energy over time.

“They’re smart, cost-effective ways to address what is a real crisis,” he said.

Lucas Frerichs called this “the overarching global issue of our time.”  He said that this resolution is not just rhetoric, “it also contains an important set of actions.”  He said of the resolutions passed in the state and country so far, “there is no question that this is the strongest of the resolutions in terms of the concrete actions and steps that our community is agreeing to undertake.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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21 thoughts on “Council Approves Resolution Declaring a Climate Emergency”

  1. Alan Miller

    I’ll say as for all such items . . . the City Council should be concerned with City issues.  This is a national, nee international, issue.  Now, to the extent we take some local actions that actually make a small difference, fine.  Davis, however, is not going to save the world.  I know the counter-arguments, I know what you’ll say, don’t bother (though you will bother) .

    I must admit, ” . . . The urgency and scale dwarf everything else – even paid parking”, is a pretty funny line.

    What’s a ‘lasing drought’ ?

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Yeah – Since I have to bother, I suspect people will say: (A) if not here, where? And (B) why wouldn’t we do these things anyway.

      That said, I tend to believe at this point this stuff needs to happen at the nation-state level or the global level, not just at the local level. It’s purely symbolic at this point. But I think you can argue that the symbolism is actually important in terms of a tool to move it forward. I don’t know. I’m not that hopeful that this crisis can be averted at this point.

    2. Richard McCann

      The organizers behind this are attempting a bottoms up effort across many communities due to the lack of national leadership on this issue.

  2. Jim Hoch

    “a very Davis-oriented approach”. Having lived a number of places I believe the defining characteristic of Davis the the egocentric view that other places are looking in this direction for leadership. “be a model for nearby communities” I have not met anyone, anywhere, at anytime who looked to Davis for “leadership”. 

    “nearby communities” seem more prone to ridiculing Davis than emulating it.

    1. Craig Ross

      You’re actually quite wrong.  First of all, there are a whole host of ways in which Davis has been a leader in a whole variety of areas – bicycling, sustainability, even things like cannabis dispensaries.  The second problem, is that you misunderstand in what ways communities lead.  When another community takes on a program or project, the first thing they do is look at what other communities are doing so they don’t have to re-invent the wheel.  Look at some our own debates and discussions on a variety of policy areas – we look at similar communities – what is their affordable housing policy?  Who has a wood burning ban?  Who has a plastic bag ban?  Etc.  We looked at other communities – they look at us.  Look at this article – the staff report listed what other communities are doing and we decided to go further.  That’s how this stuff works.

      1. John Hobbs

        “even things like cannabis dispensaries.”

        Revisionist history at its worst. Almost every city in the state had dispensaries before Davis even put its toes in the water.

      2. Jim Hoch

        “we decided to go further”

        The conceit is that we are leaders and other “nearby communities” are going to follow us. What exactly, from your list, have we inspired nearby communities to emulate?

        1. Richard McCann

          Two examples: The adoption of bike lanes began with Davis in 1967, and the statewide Title 24 energy standards came directly out of Davis’s standards adopted in the early 1970s.

  3. Bill Marshall

    At first blush, was tempted to buy a bunch of green wood, and burn it in the fireplace (on inversion days), and insist on one-use plastic bags @ the store, and use as many plastic straws as I could (funny, you have to ask for one in a sit down restaurant, but you can take ~ 100 @ any fast-food place in Davis)…

    A couple of minutes later, I looked at what we are already doing, and can’t imagine how reacting to this (faux) “emergency” would change our proactive measures to minimize our waste, and/or “carbon footprint”…

    ‘Others’ could improve… but wait! that seems to be what this is about…some folk wanting to compel others to do things they believe in… urgently

    Climate change is real… has been for millions of years… draconian local legislation/posturing to stop/reverse climate change is “silly”… at best… this is “feel good posturing”… IMHO

    1. Tia Will


      You have overlooked the fact that absolutely no one is claiming the actions taken by Davis will be “world saving”. All that can be hoped for is the small differences that on small locale can make. That is enough. It is our contribution and we should be making it.

  4. Alan Miller

    Climate change is real… has been for millions of years… 

    HUMan did it!  HUMan did it!

    some folk wanting to compel others to do things they believe in…urgently

    Maybe Davis could send a resolution to China to compel them to stop burning coal… urgently…


    1. Bill Marshall


      Similar urgent message to all countries having nukes… one of those puppies could really un-sequestrate carbon and pollute air big time!

  5. Bill Marshall

    I find it ironic… we are carbon-based organisms, as are pretty much everything we eat (plant or animal)… we all need oxygen…

    Our atmosphere is primarily nitrogen… oxygen is second… with every breath we take, we convert O2 to CO2…

    Guess massive nuke strikes could eliminate almost all CO2 emissions!  Why wait?  We could save the Earth!

    What’s left would need to worry about O3 (ozone) though…

  6. Ron Glick

    “We are living in a time of climate emergency.  The urgency and scale dwarf everything else – even paid parking.”

    And yet they made the public sit through a two hour staff report on parking while passing this on consent with no explanation at all. Perhaps at the second reading they could ask staff to explain what passing a climate emergency means for the people of Davis.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I think her point was that we aren’t paying enough attention to the real problems and instead focus on things like paid parking which in the scheme of things…

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