Alameda, 400 Cities Declare Climate Emergency

On Tuesday night, March 26, the City Council of Alameda voted 5-0 to pass a historic resolution declaring a climate emergency.

In passing the resolution, the Council formally launched a citywide push to end greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent by the aggressive deadline of 2030. The resolution would also facilitate a just transition to clean energy as Alameda endeavors to adapt as rapidly as possible to the growing global and local effects of climate change.  

Specifically, the declaration calls for an urgent and just citywide climate mobilization effort to reverse global warming. This includes reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible towards net zero emissions and committing to educate the community about the climate emergency. It states that low-income community members are hit hardest by climate disasters and poor air quality.  

Residents filled the chambers, including about 70 supporters of the resolution. Twelve addressed the Council on the need to reduce emissions, to recycle and to take more urgent measures as soon as possible, given Alameda’s vulnerability with an average elevation of 33 feet above sea level. 

Students from Alameda and Encinal high schools expressed the concerns of their generation about the survivability of low-lying parts of the Island City during their lifetimes, including Bay Farm Island. 

Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and other Councilmembers praised the students’ articulate participation, acknowledging the need to protect the city and ensure a safe future for their generation to reside in Alameda.  

“I was distraught to hear that by the year 2050, before I or my peers even turn 50 years old, Alameda will experience enough sea-level rise that Bay Farm Island will be nearly underwater. The small window of time that we are given by climate scientists and the IPCC to reverse that sea level rise is closing on us, very quickly,” said Caroline Choi, an Alameda High School junior. “The facts and solutions on the climate crisis are already out there. Scientists have been citing these for years. The only thing we have to do now is act!”

The declaration includes reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible towards net zero emissions, and committing to educate the community about the climate emergency.

Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda (CASA) —whose members had consulted with Councilmembers about the draft resolution — were well represented. Other local organizations were also at the table. These included: the Sierra Club, Bike Walk Alameda, Alameda Backyard Growers, The Climate Mobilization, 350 Bay Area and the United Nations Association. 

Favorable comments from the Mayor and all other Councilmembers followed Vice Mayor John Knox White, who introduced the resolution with Councilmember Jim Oddie. Each amplified the need to take policy decisions and prioritize plans that fulfill the intent of the declaration. They recognized community participation as one key contributor to respond to Alameda’s needs in coming years.

“This is critical,” said Amos White, a resident and CASA member.  “As the saying goes, ‘no man is an island,’ the same is true for Alameda: no island is an island. Clearly, we cannot do this alone.  In acknowledging this climate emergency, Alameda can now engage other regional municipalities to begin the critical conversations and act collectively, with urgency, to do our part in protecting and assuring the survivability of our planet, our Bay Area residents and communities.”

The resolution comes in response to urgent warnings from scientists who say that the world must rapidly transform in order to avoid even worse consequences from climate change. Incidents of extreme heat, damaging storms and floods and devastating wildfires have become well known. They affect people across California. Evidence accumulates and models affirm that these disasters will only increase if the climate continues to change faster than at any time in centuries and millennia.

In 2018, the National Oceanic and Atomospheric Administration estimated that unless bold action is taken to address the climate crisis, Alameda could experience anywhere from six to 12 feet of sea-level rise by the end of the century. This would result in a sustained loss of 33 percent of its landmass submerged due to sea-level rise.

Alameda now joins Oakland, Berkeley, Hayward, Richmond, Fairfax and Davis, as well as the city and county of Santa Cruz in declaring climate emergencies. San Francisco and Chico, Calif., are considering adopting climate emergency declarations as well.

CASA is a community-wide coalition dedicated to raising awareness, mobilizing community action and facilitating the implementation of programs to achieve the goal of Alameda’s Local Action Plan for Climate Protection (to reduce Alameda’s carbon emissions to 25 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020) and to increase community sustainability and well-being.