In Open Letter to California, Climate and Environmental Justice Groups Outline Key Climate Actions for Gov. Newsom

Environmental groups publish full page ads in major newspapers outlining key climate actions as state grapples with unprecedented wildfires


Jill Fitzsimmons, Earthjustice

Leading climate and environmental justice groups published an open letter today calling on the people of California to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to accelerate California’s transition off of fossil fuels. The letter, which was signed by California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), Earthjustice, and the Sierra Club, appeared as a full page ad today in both the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee. 

The letter follows weeks of climate-fueled wildfires that have consumed homes, forced thousands of Californians to evacuate in the midst of a deadly pandemic, and choked communities with smoke. In response to the devastation, Gov. Newsom announced last week that California would accelerate its climate targets, calling current policies “inadequate” across the board. 

“The pleas of communities at the frontlines of fossil fuel operations suffering from health and safety impacts that shorten their life expectancy have largely been ignored. Their reality — children locked indoors and respiratory problems because of poor air quality — will increasingly be felt by everyone,” said Gladys Limón, Executive Director of CEJA. “Climate Justice demands immediate and transformative action. We must move past incremental, false market-based solutions that only prolong and profit from the climate crisis, and instead rapidly transition to a zero-carbon renewable economy starting with communities at the frontlines of gas and oil operations.”

The letter urges Gov. Newsom to follow through on his commitment to accelerating California’s climate targets, listing five key state actions — based on consensus from climate scientists and California agencies — that are critical to building a transformative climate response that supports workers and protects communities hardest hit by pollution. 

  1. End fossil fuel infrastructure: Stop permitting new oil and gas drilling, pipelines, and infrastructure, and accelerate a managed decline to phase out oil production and refining in California, starting with operations near homes and schools. Provide proper support and resources to ensure a fair transition for fossil fuel workers.

  2. Increase the use of clean energy: Accelerate the building of solar, storage, wind, and other clean technologies so that all our electricity is 100% zero-carbon by 2030, prioritizing communities at the frontlines of fossil fuel operations.

  3. Phase-out dirty fuels in our homes: Require all-electric new buildings by 2022, ensure 100% of appliances sold in California are electric starting in 2025, and invest to ensure low-income families can affordably upgrade their homes.

  4. Phase-out polluting cars and trucks: Move to 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030 and accelerate public transportation solutions.

  5. Appoint strong climate leaders to regulatory agencies, like the Air Resources Board, who will champion bold solutions that simultaneously address climate change and other air pollution.

“Our homes, our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our businesses hang in the balance of immense, intensified, and unpredictable sea level rise, fires, hurricanes, and heatwaves,” said Kathryn Phillips, Director of Sierra Club California. “California needs to be a leader in making a stance against the use of fossil fuels, which are fueling these intensified weather events, if we are going to have any chance at tempering the storm and protecting thousands of lives.” 

Frontline communities and environmental justice groups have long emphasized that ending California’s continued allegiance to oil and gas extraction — which poisons neighboring communities — is crucial to protecting those who have suffered most from the devastating health consequences of California’s fossil fuel addiction. Despite California’s reputation as a climate leader, new drilling permits for oil and gas operations have increased under Gov. Newsom.

“The entire Western seaboard has been choked in smoke for weeks, thousands of people across the West have become climate refugees, and this is only a preview of the consequences of inaction,” said Sasan Saadat, Research and Policy Analyst with Earthjustice. “The solution is as it has always been — end our reliance on fossil fuels and accelerate a just transition to a society powered by clean energy. The governor can model that through these actions, and rebuild a healthier and more resilient economy in the process.” 

The skyline in the distance behind Crissy Field is barely visible with smoke from wildfires Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in San Francisco.
The skyline in the distance behind Crissy Field is barely visible with smoke from wildfires Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

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