Climate of Change: Local Students to Call Out Council at Tonight’s Meeting

Published : Monday, January 27, 2020 | 4:44 PM

In September 2019 Sequoyah School students led a "die in" on the steps of Pasadena City Hall to raise the alarm about what they said is climate emergency, Photo by Brian Biery

At tonight’s City Council meeting local students from the Sequoyah School will ask the City Council to declare a climate emergency.

The request comes two weeks after the Arroyo Seco Foundation’s candidate forum. According to Ozzy Simpson, Jason Hardin, Major Williams, Victor Gordo and Mayor Terry Tornek said they would support declaring such an emergency.

Students have sent Mayor Tornek 40 letters since that time, but so far there has been no declaration.

The declaration would put the City Council on record in support of taking emergency action to reverse global warming.

“On January 14, Arroyo Seco Foundation held a mayoral candidate forum on the environment. At the forum, all four candidates said they would support declaring a climate emergency. Tell our current City Council they need to do that now so that the climate crisis is considered in every decision they make,” the letter reads.

According to Simpson, Tornek has declined the request.

In his response, Tornek explained he believes Pasadena’s interests are best served when responses are developed to issues that impact the City, rather than signing on to national or international declarations.

“While I believe that the planet is indeed faced with a Climate Emergency, I am not willing to sign on to the Climate Emergency Declaration you have suggested,” Tornek wrote.

“The Declaration that you attached outlines specific steps, time-frames and support for national legislative policies that are at odds with our locally adopted and annually updated, Climate Action Plan. Pasadena’s plan is the product of detailed community discussions that respond to local conditions, California requirements and resident participation. I do not support preempting its programs and policies with the suggested template.”

In 2018, the City Council unanimously passed the Pasadena Climate Action Plan. The plan commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels this year, 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.

By 2025, the city wants its power portfolio to be free from coal sources.

Pasadena plans to not just meet the states goals, but exceed them.

The state mandates that utilities get to 33 percent in renewable energy by 2020. Pasadena plans to procure 60 percent of its power sources from renewable energy by 2030, along with a 75 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as compared to 1990 levels.

Tornek said in view of mounting evidence of global damage and a “growing demand for action, particularly among our youth” he agrees the plan’s introduction does not convey an adequate sense of urgency and has asked staff to discuss revisions that would reflect the emerging realities.

“This is exactly what should happen within the framework of a local document that is frequently adjusted as new information and changing circumstances emerge.

“Thank you for your interest in this critical subject. I hope that you will participate in the ongoing dialogue,” Tornek wrote.

Simpson will be one of the moderators at 5 p.m. next Tuesday at the first-ever youth led Climate Action Forum at the Jackie Robinson Recreation Center, 1081 N Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena. The mayoral and city council candidates have been invited to attend the forum.

In October, 90 scientists from 40 countries said in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that if humans don’t take immediate, action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040, the planet will face irreversible consequences that will alter the natural systems of the planet, resulting in more natural disasters, droughts, famine, wildfires, floods and hurricanes.

In order to prevent that catastrophic future, global carbon emissions will have to be reduced by 40 percent by 2030.