On Monday, local students called on the Pasadena City Council to sign a commitment to a Green New Deal aimed at combatting climate change, but the mayor and the seven council members declined the invitation.
“The American people need a Green New Deal — a 10-year World War II scale mobilization as put forth by Sen. Edward Markey and US Representative Alexander Ocasio-Cortez — to stop climate change, achieve climate sustainability, create millions of jobs and realize economic prosperity for all,” the pledge reads.
The pledge also asks council members and candidates to turn away donations of more than $200 from businesses in the fossil fuel industry, and turn down contributions from oil industry executives.
In a related development, Time magazine on Wednesday named teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg its person of the year. As CNN reports, Thunberg “rose to fame when she began what she called ‘climate strikes’ in her native Sweden to protest the lack of action by governments around the world to address the threat posed by climate change.” As Time wrote, “She has succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change. She has offered a moral clarion call to those who are willing to act, and hurled shame on those who are not.”
Eighteen-year-old Ozzy Simpson, a student at Sequoyah School in Pasadena, asked City Council members to sign the pledges at Monday’s meeting. But after waiting six hours for the council’s Monday meeting to end just after midnight Tuesday, and finally having an opportunity to personally ask some of them to sign the pledge, none did.
“None of the sitting members signed publicly last night, but we are following up with them soon to ensure they do,” said Simpson, co-president of the school’s student government. “They seemed pretty receptive, though, and I expect a few to sign on, at least.”
On Friday Dec. 6, about 50 people, including Simpson and 30 other students from Sequoyah School, participated in a die-in to symbolize the threat of climate change. This was the second die-in event held at City Hall by students from that school. They were joined by hundreds of people in a similar protest held on Sept. 20.
“I think part of the things that makes it such a big thing is it’s an international movement and we can see on social media other kids at other schools all around the world doing the same thing on the same day,” Claire Donahue, a junior at Sequoyah School, said of the students’ efforts. “I feel like it makes it bigger than just what’s happening in Pasadena. It’s the biggest issue of our time. It definitely affects every other political issue and our lives.”
At the Dec. 6 event, mayoral candidate Jason Hardin and council candidates Felicia Williams, Charlotte Bland and Ryan Bell, the latter three who are running for seats in District 2, 4 and 6, respectively, signed the pledge.
Hardin said he signed because he believes in campaign reform. He also expressed admiration for the work of Sequoyah School students.
“Current laws make it far too easy for corporations and special interest groups to buy the favor of our elected officials before the matter is even heard.” Hardin said. “Secondly, I’m very proud of these youngsters for considering their future, organizing, and getting involved in activism early. As adults, it’s our duty and responsibility to encourage and nurture the positive development of young people in our community in any way we can. As for their cause, I think it’s very important to be mindful of our environment as well as our role in the condition of our planet in all decisions we make.”
Mayor Terry Tornek and Councilman and challenger Victor Gordo were given opportunities to sign the pledge at the meeting on Monday, but both declined.
Mayoral challenger Major Williams said he was contacted by the students and plans to reach out to them.
District 2 council candidate Felicia Williams, who signed the pledge, said she respected the efforts made by the local students and is committed to saving the environment.
“The Green New Deal embodies a commitment to the environment. The city made a commitment to the environment,” Felicia Williams told the Pasadena Weekly. “I signed it to renew that commitment.”
In 2018, the City Council unanimously passed the Pasadena Climate Action Plan, under which the city has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and 40 percent below that level by 2030. The plan also seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 level by 2050.
According to Water and Power spokesperson Margie Otto, by 2025 the city’s power portfolio will be entirely free from coal sources.
“The state mandates that utilities get to 33 percent in renewable energy by 2020. Pasadena plans to procure 60 percent of our power sources from renewable energy by 2030, along with a 75 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as compared to 1990 levels. We plan to not only meet the state’s GHG goals but exceed them,” said Otto.
This week, representatives from 190 countries were meeting in Madrid to address climate change. A report by the United Nations Environment Program warns that unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 per cent each year between 2020 and 2030, the world will miss the opportunity to get on track toward the 1.5 Celsius temperature rise goal of the Paris Agreement.
“I want this to be a world we can leave behind for our children and that requires we take action now,” said Julian Suh-Toma, a 16-year old junior at Sequoyah School. “It’s definitely a crisis. I think legislation is needed and we need to start taking substantial steps before it’s too late. It’s definitely an emergency.”