The last several months have witnessed an intensified opposition to fossil fuel expansion in the Bay Area. Lobbying the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and urging public institutions to divest fossil fuel company holdings are two of six campaigns that are being organized by 350 Bay Area a local, grassroots spin-off of 350.org, the international effort to return atmospheric Carbon Dioxide to 350 parts per million
Leaders of these two 350 Bay Area campaigns were featured presenters at the Local Clean Energy Alliance monthly meeting on May 28.
Climate Action Plan
Janet Stromberg and Rand Wrobel talked about the Bay Area Climate Action Plan (BayCAP) campaign. Wrobel provided backgound on the campaign, which calls for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 80% over 1990 levels, in accordance with international targets. This is an ambitious goal that cannot be met without major changes in business as usual.
Stromberg followed with details on how to achieve the proposed greenhouse gas reductions. The BayCAP calls for emission reductions via three technology priorities: energy efficiency, decarbonizing electricity generation via a switch to renewable sources, and electrification of vehicles.
The current goal of the BayCAP campaign is to get the Air District to act on its stated mission “to protect and improve public health, air quality and the global climate.” The campaign is lobbying the Air District board to declare that catastrophic climate disruption is an escalating emergency and to adopt an aggressive program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from non-vehicular sources. Stromberg pointed out that this is supposed to be the agency’s “primary responsibility,” delegated by California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32.
However, so far the Air District has failed to take any significant steps to address the impending climate change disaster, despite BayCAP’s May 9 call for action. It is apparent that a concerted public effort will be needed to move the Air District on this issue.
Judy Pope from the Divestment campaign provided an update on efforts of the campaign to convince public institutions in the Bay Area to divest pension funds from 200 top fossil-fuel companies. The primary goal is to undermine the legitimacy of the oil and gas industry by pointing out that it is not ethical to profit from investment in an industry that is destroying life on the planet.
Pope said that the most effective approach has been to assert that fund managers are not doing due diligence if they are not paying attention to the potential financial collapse of the fossil-fuel industry, or “oil bubble”. She explained that the value of oil and gas stocks is based on reserves that mostly will need to be kept in the ground to prevent catastrophic changes in the climate. Therefore, it is a failure of the fiduciary responsibility of public institutions to continue to invest in fossil-fuel companies.
Following Pope’s presentation, it was suggested that the campaign has an opportunity to create a re-investment strategy that can draw broad public support. There is a huge opportunity to provide jobs in local renewable energy development if investment vehicles are created to move the tens of billions of dollars of California pension fund holdings from fossil fuels into local renewable energy programs.