Dying Earth on Gurney Focus of Environmental Justice Rally at Sacramento Board of Supervisors Meeting

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Climate activists surround a dying earth on a gurney and rally for a strong Climate Emergency Declaration at the Sacramento County Administration Building on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Sacramento Climate Coalition)

By Robert J. Hansen

SACRAMENTO, CA – Sacramento County Board of  Supervisors proposed delaying its climate change plan by 15 years this week, amending the County’s 2020 Climate Emergency Declaration, goal for carbon neutrality from 2030 to 2045 at Tuesday’s meeting.

But that proposal was amended when roughly 50 members of the Sacramento Climate Coalition rallied at the meeting in protest of the delay, arguing that the county’s “emergency declaration and the task force have expressed a commitment to focusing on environmental justice.”

“By moving the date to 2045, the sense of urgency is lost. 2045 is more than 20 years from now, and is placing the burden on the next generation, who are already living with the rising climate and ecological crisis which will only be harder to fix the longer we wait. The science is clear: the climate crisis is now, and we need to respond with immediate action,” organizer Chris Brown charged.

The coalition said the 2030 date identified in the County Climate Emergency Declaration is a stretch goal and is not a requirement of the state; it is a voluntary commitment, noting, “There are no legal consequences for failing to accomplish it.”

“In 2020 the Supervisors adopted a Climate Emergency Declaration with a 2030 timeline for carbon neutrality. By setting a goal of 2030 for carbon neutrality, the County Supervisors took a stand and set an example for the region: work on climate change must happen now—this is an emergency,” Brown said.

In a statement, the Coalition said the proposed delays in implementing these programs are going to leave the most vulnerable people in our community at risk.

The coalition said local governments should take a proactive approach that helps overcome the economic and racial disparities that plague our communities.

“Kicking the can down the road to 2045 is the exact opposite of what’s needed,” the coalition said in its statement.

“It is absolutely unacceptable” the supervisors are considering an “ill considered” amendment to the Climate Emergency Declaration proposal to push back the timeline for the Climate Emergency Declaration (Resolution) from 2030 to 2045,” the coalition charged.

It was clear that the numbers and the testimony had an impact on the perception of the supervisors who were otherwise prepared to adopt the staff’s recommendation.

“As a young person, I am acutely aware of the urgency of the climate crisis. I am 17 years old, and a shift of 15 years is almost as long as my entire lifetime. By moving the date from 2030 to 2045, we unfairly place the burden of the climate crisis on my generation, despite the fact that we have played little role in causing it. It is absolutely essential that a 2030 goal be maintained,”  Supriya Patel, coalition member said.

Supervisor Patrick Kennedy was the only supervisor that stood up for climate emergency declaration that Supervisors adopted in 2020.

“The problem with the inconsistency of the resolution matching the cap that’s under development,” Kennedy said. “Well, why don’t we change the cap?”

That elicited applause from the public in attendance.

Supervisor Kennedy recognized that a fast timeline was necessary to kick start these programs, which have yet to be initiated.

“It’s better to get started now instead of waiting until you [have] a perfect program in view of the rising impacts of climate change and extreme heat, wildfires, and floods, which have all hit California hard in the past few years,” Kennedy said.

Supervisor Phil Serna offered the compromise after it was clear from the comments of some of the board members that they were going to follow staff’s recommendation.

The other supervisors gave in to the idea presented by the county staff that it is unrealistic to implement the climate programs rapidly.

“There are enormous impacts for our region and the world if we change the date to 2045. A date of 2045 means a significant reduction in the urgency to address these matters. Urgent work will be pushed back by 15 years.  Resiliency Centers for our most vulnerable citizens will be pushed back 15 years,” Dr. Goli Sahba, coalition steering committee member said.

It certainly is an opportunity for community education and we intend to take this opportunity to push the climate emergency message, the coalition added.

Supervisor Serna asked staff to reword the proposed changes so that the dates of 2030 and 2045 are both included in a revised draft staff proposal which was adopted with a 3-1-1 vote.

“It’s better to get the couple months that we have now to work to persuade supervisors and hopefully get them to see Patrick Kennedy’s and the climate movement’s position on this,” the coalition said.

County staff indicated they could come back in late September or early October with the revised language.

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About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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