The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Armando Davila-Kirkwood, The Climate Mobilization Bay Area Organizer

Colin Cook-Miller, Oakland Climate Action Coalition (OCAC) Coordinator

Oakland Declares Climate Emergency

As UN warns time is running out, Oakland becomes fourth California city working to kick off a Emergency Climate Mobilization


Last night, the city of Oakland followed Berkeley and Richmond, becoming the third California city to declare a Climate Emergency, voting unanimously to pass a "Resolution Endorsing the Declaration of a Climate Emergency and Requesting Regional Collaboration on an Immediate Just Transition and Emergency Mobilization Effort to Restore a Safe Climate."

Oakland's vote marks growing regional momentum and a movement of cities to treat global warming as the emergency it is. Oakland joins Berkeley and Richmond in launching an emergency-speed Climate Mobilization and Just Transition effort.

This means that the City will:

  • Rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and seek to reach zero net emissions at emergency speed
  • Create plans to protect residents, especially frontline communities, from worsening climate disasters, and
  • Work with local cities, counties and public agencies around the San Francisco Bay Area region to bring them into a rapid Just Transition mobilization as well.

The City of Los Angeles is also gearing up for an equitable emergency response to global warming as it considers a motion from LA Councilmember Paul Koretz to create a Climate Emergency Mobilization Department. As Councilmember Koretz wrote in his letter to Oakland City Councilmembers yesterday, "The UN IPCC Report from earlier this month confirms what we have already known: we need to stop messing around with our greenhouse gas emissions immediately or we will face a climate catastrophe, the likes of whose impacts we are already feeling. Severe climate disruption is not happening to our children and grandchildren, it is happening to us right here in California, and around the world in real time. This is an emergency like nothing humankind has ever faced before, and we must be up to the task if civilization is to survive." Hoboken, New Jersey and Montgomery County, Maryland have also passed similar Climate Emergency Declarations.

Oakland's Resolution combines the need to stop climate change in its tracks with a commitment to social justice, calling for a rapid Just Transition from an extractive, destructive and racist economy towards equitable, regenerative and local living economies that uphold human rights and the Earth's life support systems.

Passing Climate Emergency Declarations is a new and growing strategy for the climate movement, and an effective way for cities to act while the Federal government is motivated by fossil-fuel-funded denial. Notes Margaret Klein Salamon, director of The Climate Mobilization: "The growing emergency climate movement calls for an all-hands-on-deck climate mobilization to eliminate emissions as quickly as possible, in ten years or less, through a World War II-scale economic mobilization." As Oakland Climate Action Coalition (OCAC) Coordinator Colin Cook-Miller said, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. In this time we must go both fast and far, together. Our movement for a rapid Just Transition mobilization must be coordinated, strategic and unified, with leadership from the most-impacted frontline communities who are at the forefront of change."

Incoming Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also called on the United States to treat the climate crisis as it did WWII. What is more, the Extinction Rebellion launched in London today (10/31). This campaign of escalating civil disobedience -- backed by more than 100 prominent climate scientists, elected officials and intellectuals -- calls for the UK to eliminate emissions by 2025 and remove excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through a WWII-scale climate mobilization.

Recent scientific reports have added fuel to the fire of this growing movement. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming 1.5C published in October 2018 makes it clear that climate disruption is an existential threat to the survival of humanity. The window for meaningful climate action to hold global warming at 1.5C is until 2030 - 12 years at the most.

As the chair of the IPCC said, "Limiting global warming to 1.5degC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society." But 1.5degC of warming is far from safe, carrying with it serious risk for triggering a cascade of dangerous tipping points: a recent scientific report "implied that, even if the Paris Accord target of a 1.5degC to 2.0degC rise in temperature is met, we cannot exclude the risk that a cascade of feedbacks could push the Earth System irreversibly onto a 'Hothouse Earth' pathway."

Some climate scientists estimate that we are now facing up to a 3-4degC world, which could condemn us to an uninhabitable planet. As has been witnessed in 2018 in the United States alone, from the historic devastation caused by Hurricanes Michael and Florence on the Eastern seaboard, to the chaos caused by wildfires in California, global warming is already an emergency. The impacts of climate change are being felt most dramatically by the communities on its front lines, such as houseless people, low-income people, people of color, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, undocumented immigrants, elders, youth, queer and trans people.

The OCAC led the effort to pass the Resolution in Oakland, with support from The Climate Mobilization. 42 local & national organizations and coalitions signed on to the OCAC's letter of support calling on Councilmembers to pass the "Climate Emergency Declaration & Just Transition Resolution" without delay. Notable signatory organizations include Asian Pacific Environmental Network, The East Oakland Collective, The Village, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, West Side Missionary Baptist Church, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, AYPAL Building API Community Power, Kehilla Community Synagogue, California Interfaith Power & Light, 350 East Bay, Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter, Youth vs Apocalypse, Clean Water Action, Sunrise Bay Area, SustainUS, No Coal in Oakland and the Anti Police-Terror Project.

Started in 2009, the OCAC is a cross-sector coalition dedicated to racial and economic justice in leading Oakland's response to climate change. The OCAC engages Oakland's frontline residents to create and implement climate solutions that strengthen communities' health, wealth and resilience. The OCAC's coalition membership consists of over 3 dozen organizations, including social and environmental justice, environmental, green business and labor groups.

The Climate Mobilization is a national organization grounded in climate truth and justice and devoted to launching an emergency mobilization to restore a safe climate. The Climate Emergency Movement is a network of people doing everything we can to prevent climate and ecological catastrophe. We ask our institutions and communities to respond to climate change and ecological destruction as an emergency. We demand the only response that makes sense: a massive, just mobilization of our cities and nation to protect humanity and the natural world.