February 9, 2016

Hundreds urge Planning Commission to deny Phillips 66′s dangerous oil train proposal

Hundreds gathered for a rally during the lunch break on the first day of the Planning Commission hearing (photo courtesy of Vanessa Tsimoyianis)

Hundreds gathered for a rally during the lunch break on the first day of the Planning Commission hearing (photo courtesy of Vanessa Tsimoyianis)

On February 4th and 5th, hundreds of people from across California converged on downtown San Luis Obispo to urge county planning commissioners to reject Phillips 66′s proposal to build an oil train terminal at its Santa Maria refinery.  The oil giant seeks to transport tar sands crude from Canada in mile-long trains — each laden with over 2 million gallons of dirty crude — that would travel through hundreds of communities before arriving at the refinery on California’s Central Coast.

By Thursday afternoon, nearly 400 people had signed up to speak at the Planning Commission hearing.  The local paper reported that it was the largest turnout for a public hearing in years.  The crowds were so large that the historic movie theater next door had to be used for overflow seating.  People came not just from San Luis Obispo County but also from farther afield: Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Sacramento, Fresno, Santa Barbara, and other towns and cities that would be put at risk by oil trains rolling through their communities.  Oil train derailments and explosions have skyrocketed in recent years.  The most catastrophic accident occurred in Lac-Megantic, Canada in July 2013, when an oil train derailment caused a fiery explosion that killed 47 people and obliterated several city blocks.

At the start of the hearing, Phillips 66 announced that it had downsized its proposal from 5 oil trains per week to 3 trains per week.  Phillips conceded that this new proposal would have many of the same “significant and unavoidable impacts” to human health and the environment as the original proposal, particularly along the rail line.  But the company espoused an opportunistic (and flimsy) argument that federal regulation of railroads means the commissioners can only consider impacts at the refinery site — not the risks posed to hundreds of communities that the unsafe oil trains would rumble through on their way from Canada to the Santa Maria refinery. 

On the first day of the hearing, the Planning Commission heard from 83 members of the public.  Every single speaker opposed the project.

The speakers included elected officials such as San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, and staffers speaking on behalf of State Senators Bill Monning and Hannah-Beth Jackson, State Assemblymember Das Williams, and officials from nearby towns including Oxnard and Goleta.  From the Bay Area, where oil trains would pass through on their way to the Phillips 66 refinery, staffers spoke against the project on behalf of elected officials from Santa Clara County, San Jose, and Berkeley.

Santa Barbara mayor Helene Schneider addresses the crowd at the rally

Santa Barbara mayor Helene Schneider addresses the crowd at the rally

A lunchtime rally further highlighted the overwhelming public opposition to Phillips 66′s project.  More than 500 people gathered in the plaza across the street from the hearing, many wearing t-shirts and waving signs bearing the message “Stop Oil Trains Now.”  As they alternated between listening to speakers and cheering, the rally participants lived up to the directive on one attendee’s sign to “Stand Up to Big Oil.”  Among the rally speakers were Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal.

This trend of overwhelming opposition to the project continued on the second day of the hearing.  Although a handful of people spoke in support (primarily Phillips 66 employees), they were far outnumbered by people urging the Planning Commission to deny the project.  This imbalance is nothing new.  Of the approximately 24,500 comment letters received on the project during the environmental review process, only about 150 were in support.  The county has also received dozens of comments from state and local governmental officials, counties, cities, schools and fire protection districts opposing the plan to transport crude by rail through their communities.

At the hearing, the citizens who urged the Planning Commission to deny the project included residents of San Luis Obispo and Nipomo Mesa (where the refinery is located), nurses and physicians, a retired firefighter, students and teachers, San Jose and Davis residents who would be affected by the oil trains rolling through their communities, a retired chemical engineering professor, a zookeeper, parents and grandparents (and even a great-grandparent), a retired CFO, and representatives of groups including the Sierra Club, ForestEthics, Center for Biological Diversity, Surfrider Foundation, Mesa Refinery Watch Group, Santa Barbara Channelkeepers, the League of Women Voters, and the California Nurses Association.

Rally participants listen to a speaker, across the street from overflow seating in the Fremont Theater

Rally participants listen to a speaker, across the street from overflow seating in the Fremont Theater

Attorneys from the Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment, and Environmental Defense Center also spoke, addressing deficiencies in the final environmental impact report and the project’s inconsistency with the Local Coastal Plan and General Plan, as well as refuting Phillips 66′s argument that the preemption doctrine precludes the Commission from considering impacts on “up-rail” communities.  (Notably, the company has also said it believes that preemption prevents the county from regulating rail terminals or unloading facilities — which signals that if allowed to build the oil train terminal under the 3 train per week proposal, Phillips 66 would later argue that the county is prohibited from limiting the number of trains.)

At the hearing, many of the speakers urged the Planning Commission to follow the recommendation of its own staff, which recently issued a report recommending denial of the project.  The staff report noted the significant local, regional, and statewide concern regarding toxic air emissions, risk of derailment and explosion, and inadequate emergency response services along the rail line.  The staff report also pointed out that the environmental impact report for the project concluded that there would be “significant and unavoidable” impacts from diesel particulate matter and toxic air emissions at the refinery (including an unacceptable cancer risk for the population near the project), as well as ten ”significant and unavoidable” impacts along the rail line (including impacts to agricultural resources, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, hazards, public services, and water resources).

Andrew Christie, Chapter Director of the Sierra Club's Santa Lucia Chapter, speaking to the Planning Commission

Andrew Christie, Chapter Director of the Sierra Club’s Santa Lucia Chapter, speaking to the Planning Commission

The Sierra Club and our allies have played a critical role in the environmental review process for the project, helping to ensure that the project’s impacts are thoroughly analyzed.  We submitted comments on the draft environmental impact report in January 2014, which led the county to do another round of environmental review, which we also commented on.  In addition, represented by Environmental Defense Center, we submitted comments highlighting the project’s inconsistency with critical Local Coastal Program policies.

As the second day of the hearing drew to a close, many people who had signed up to speak had not yet had a chance to do so.  The Planning Commission continued the hearing to February 25 for additional public comment.  Once the public comment process is complete, there will be a staff response, an opportunity for questions from the Commission (including questions for agencies such as Cal Fire), deliberations, and finally a Planning Commission decision.  That decision can be appealed to the County Board of Supervisors, whose decision could then be appealed to the California Coastal Commission.  Notably, on February 3, Coastal Commission staff sent a letter to the Planning Commission stating that it “strongly agree[s] with and support[s]” the planning staff’s recommendation to deny the project.

– Elly Benson, Sierra Club attorney

SF shouldn’t waste money on a golf course doomed by sea-level rise

Apartments in Pacifica are just inches from falling into the ocean. Watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mWhelxSAhk.

Apartments in Pacifica are just inches from falling into the ocean. Watch the video at bit.ly/1PurDf8.

Pacifica, or at least a part of it, is falling into the sea. Many of you have seen or heard about the eroding bluffs in Pacifica and the vacating of apartments now on the brink of falling into the sea.

Only one and a half miles away the Sharp Park Golf Course, owned and managed by the City of San Francisco, faces a similar fate, protected from inundation only by a non-sustainable sea wall.

Sharp Park Golf Course was, after all, once a thriving tidal lagoon and coastal wetland habitat. In fact, the lagoon still exists as a part of the golf course, only now it’s essentially a lake called the Laguna Salada. The lake’s ecological importance is recognized by it being included in the City’s Natural Areas designation. But it is not only the Laguna Salada that recalls the area’s rich ecological heritage. Still found on the golf course are important populations of the threatened California red-legged frog and the endangered San Francisco garter snake — listed for protection by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. And these same species are occasionally killed or otherwise harmed by golf course operations.

Over the last 12 years the Golf Course has cost San Francisco a net loss of $1.8 million dollars. To protect the golf course into the future — if it can even be done in the face of sea level rise — millions more will have to be spent just on trying to protect it from the sea, let alone operating cost losses. Look what happened a mere 1.5 miles away in Pacifica, despite efforts to reinforce and protect that shoreline.

There is a better solution. Right next door to the Sharp Park Golf Course is Mori Point, a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). There, efforts are underway to restore endangered species habitat for the snake and frog. The City should work with GGNRA to develop a gradual transformation from golf course to national parkland (the GGNRA has already expressed some interest). The planning for such a move would take many years of citizens input to determine what recreational and habitat elements would go in it. By the time it is completed, the sea will be distinctly higher and protecting the golf course more and more expensive. On the other hand, a restored tidal wetland/ lagoon system will help Pacifica address sea level rise through natural processes. We should start the planning process now.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 1.30.18 PMInstead, the City is about to release a Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that will propose significant redevelopment work on the golf course, work that may further imperil the listed species. The City is trying to sneak this project through the California Environmental Quality Act analysis process by including it in an EIR prepared for the City’s Natural Areas program. This is a program designed to protect and preserve the City’s historic ecological resources: its native plants and animals that are found in specific, relatively undamaged areas of the City (thus Natural Areas). The City has identified the Laguna Salada as one of those natural areas and so is using this to try to include the golf course project in the Natural Area EIR. But, as we all know, a golf course is not a natural area, so including a golf course improvement project in a Natural Area EIR is the height of hypocrisy.


Please tell your Supervisor that the Recreation and Parks Department should remove Sharp Park Golf Course from the Natural Areas EIR and that the City should begin discussions with the GGNRA on how to transform a doomed golf course into a thriving National Park.

Send a letter to your supervisor at:

City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 244
San Francisco, Ca 94102-4689.

Or, send an email:

You can find out who your supervisor is at www.sfbos.org.

– Arthur Feinstein

Nominations sought for Michener Award for outings leaders

2015 Michener Award recipient Ronald Ucovich. Photo by Barbara Hebert.

2015 Michener Award recipient Ronald Ucovich (center). Photo by Barbara Hebert.

Now is the time to nominate outings leaders for this year’s Dave and Pat Michener Outings Leadership Award. The Bay Chapter established the award in 2001 to commemorate the many years of volunteer service performed by the Micheners as editors of the Chapter Schedule (the predecessor of the calendar in today’s Yodeler and Chapter website) and to recognize superior leadership by Chapter outing leaders.

If you know of an outstanding leader, send in a nomination. Leadership criteria include concern for individual participants; activities skill and knowledge combined with a penchant for sharing them; the ability to forge links between the Club’s activities and its conservation values; the number/variety of outings; the educational content of their outings; and their involvement in recruiting, training, or mentoring new leaders. To qualify, nominees must be leaders who list outings in the Chapter Events and Activities calendar. Each nomination may include up to two letters of support.

Send nominations and supporting letters by Tue., April 19, to Steve Bakaley, chair of the Chapter Activities Committee, at:

slbakaley@lbl.gov (preferred)
12 Calvin Court
Walnut Creek, CA 94595.

The winner will be selected at the May 2nd Activities Committee meeting and announced in the June-July 2016 Yodeler.

Pope Francis and the population problem

2014 visit of Pope Francis to Korea. Photo courtesy Republic of Korea on Flickr Creative Commons.

2014 visit of Pope Francis to Korea. Photo courtesy Republic of Korea on Flickr Creative Commons.

The pope has come out against climate disruption and he is more articulate and compassionate than his recent predecessors. Certainly his encyclical on climate change is welcomed by Sierra Club members as well as others. Climate change or climate disruption is just one symptom of a planet overpopulated by its dominant animal, Homo sapiens.

The Pope is addressing poverty which is also a good thing. One of the best ways out of poverty is to provide contraception to poor women which enables them to have fewer children and thereby better their circumstances. The F. Scott Fitzgerald quote “the rich get richer and the poor get children” is still the state of the world. The Vatican has opposed provision of contraception to developing nations as far back as the 1950’s. Many Catholics in more developed nations have access to and use modern contraception. It is time for the Vatican to play catch up.

The Vatican remains out of step with all who understand the dire consequences of not addressing population growth and over consumption. Some consequences of the population explosion include, but are not limited to, refugees pouring into Europe, war, chaos, climate change, rising seas, myriad forms of pollution, depletion of resources: minerals, ores, oil, gas, soils, forests, and fisheries.  We need to get our priorities straight. The future for humans is calamitous without more efforts to humanely reduce our numbers using voluntary family planning.

Today, 225 million women have no access to contraception and over 50 percent of pregnancies here and abroad are unplanned. Population is growing by 80 million a year and is projected to explode from 7 billion to 9 or 10 billion by 2050, yet our efforts and funding are minuscule relative to other spending, e.g., military and weapons.

The lack of contraception leads to unsafe illegal abortions in much of the world with an estimated 68,000 women dying and 5.3 million suffering disabilities annually. Certainly these facts should trouble a concerned, compassionate Pope. He did say Catholics don’t have to ‘breed like rabbits’, on his way back from the overpopulated Philippines, but has yet to condone modern methods of birth prevention. The planet and the poor would both benefit greatly, if the Pope supported modern contraception and sex education for all.

The SF Bay Chapter’s Population, Health, and Environment Committee meets monthly and hosts occasional events.  If you are interested in getting involved, please contact committee co-chair Suzanne York at slyork27@gmail.com.

– Article by Lee Miller, Committee for a Sustainable World Population, Sierra Club Mother Lode Chapter

All eligible Contra Costa cities vote to move ahead with Community Choice energy study

CTA-CA-335599On Tuesday, Brentwood became the 16th of 16 eligible Contra Costa cities to agree to release its PG&E electrical load to the county and participate in a countywide Community Choice Energy Technical (“Feasibility”) Study. The Brentwood City Council’s vote was unanimous, and much to the surprise of many, they pledged a maximum of $30,000 as a contribution to sharing the cost of the study. This is larger than any city so far when compared with $15,000 pledged by both Danville and Pleasant Hill, $20,000 pledged by Walnut Creek, and $25,000 by Concord. According to Jason Crapo, Deputy Director of the county’s Department of Conservation and Development, three other cities unofficially indicated a willingness to share the costs without discussing a specific dollar amount: Pinole, Orinda, and San Ramon.

A report of the survey of all 16 cities will be discussed at the county Board of Supervisors’ Internal Operations Committee (members John Gioia and Candace Andersen) led by Mr. Crapo in consultation with Seth Baruch and Tom Kelly of Lean Energy on Monday, February 29th, midday.

Several Contra Costa cities have also simultaneously applied to join Marin Clean Energy (MCE), whose period of inclusion ends March 31st. MCE requires both a proposition and ordinance to have passed the first of two readings before that date. The cities exploring both Community Choice options include Pinole, Oakley, Brentwood, Walnut Creek, and Lafayette. On Monday night, Lafayette voted unanimously to approve a first reading of a proposition and ordinance to join MCE — the first Contra Costa city to do so since El Cerrito and San Pablo did so in 2014.

If a Contra Costa Community Choice energy program goes forward, it will likely benefit from the same very favorable energy market as is the case for San Francisco and San Mateo as they write their current energy contracts. Per San Mateo’s tech study, their predicted profit the first year will be 4%, more than enough to negate the recent PCIA fee increase. However, due to its older contracts made at a time when energy (both from fossil fuels and renewable sources) was more expensive, MCE customers are now paying more than they would for standard PG&E service, both for the Light Green and Deep Green service, if you include the increased cost of the PCIA (this would not be true if it weren’t for the increased cost of the PCIA).

Although many current MCE customers share the priority of the choice of clean energy and lowering greenhouse gases rather than saving money, this increased cost may be more of a concern for new customers.

The point being that Community Choice energy programs assembling contracts in the current energy market are at an advantage compared to the “old” program, MCE. This adds one more reason that a Contra Costa program is a better choice for its member cities. And it is an added reason that the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors should move forward without delay.

Read more in “Contra Costa cities push forward with Community Choice energy“.

– Carol Weed, MD, Contra Costa Clean Energy Alliance

It’s all in the timing: California transitions to time-based net metering

Photo by Mayer Gala, courtesy of Pexels.

Photo by Mayer Gala, courtesy of Pexels.

Today, the California Public Utilities Commission adopted its final, hotly anticipated decision on the future of rooftop solar compensation in California. The Commission voted to keep net metering, allowing new rooftop solar owners to receive compensation for every kilowatt hour of energy they export to the grid at their retail rate.

The big change is that new solar customers will soon be required to be on a time-of-use rate, where electricity is more expensive to buy (and extra solar energy is more valuable to sell), at times of high electricity demand. New net metering customers will be required to start signing up under time-of-use rates as soon as the current net metering program is filled to capacity (expected to happen in six months to a year, depending on the utility).[1]

Time-of-use-based net metering is a wise first step in the evolution of rooftop solar policy. As California takes bold and necessary steps toward a fully decarbonized power system, we’ll need to create a more dynamic relationship between electricity supply and demand. Today’s decision helps us achieve this goal: the simplicity and familiarity of net metering will keep rooftop solar expanding, while time-of-use rates incentivize net metering customers to save solar power for later in the day through adaptations both cutting-edge (battery storage and smart thermostats) and mundane (west-facing panels). This shift can reduce our evening reliance on gas-fired generation, decrease air pollution, and position rooftop solar as a tool to address, not exacerbate, the much-ballyhooed duck curve.

But this isn’t the end of the road. The Commission only narrowly approved the decision, with two Commissioners feeling it didn’t reduce solar compensation enough. The discussion made it clear that rooftop solar policy can and should evolve further, as we’re better able to quantify the locational value of power exports, and as we begin to harness the features of (soon-to-be-required) smart inverters. The Commission will reconsider the issue in 2019, with Commissioners suggesting they’d favor a shift to a model based on a set price for power exports.

Overall, it’s refreshing to see a time- and resource-intensive, high stakes debate result in a balanced outcome (we’re looking at you, Nevada). This decision models how states with high levels of rooftop solar penetration can begin aligning solar compensation with its value in a measured way. Tens of thousands of people weighed in, and in the end, rooftop solar in California is positioned to keep growing, bringing cleaner air, more jobs, and a more resilient power system to California.

[1] This is a slight change from the Administrative Law Judge’s original proposal (which I blogged about previously), which would have delayed the start of mandatory time-of-use rates until 2018.

Alison Seel is an associate attorney with the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program.

Reposted from the Sierra Club’s blog, The Planet.

Oakland Tree Team ramps up activities with new grant from CAL FIRE

A Tree Team volunteer poses with a newly planted street tree. Photo by Kent Lewandowski.

A Tree Team volunteer poses with a newly planted street tree. Photo by Kent Lewandowski.

On Saturday, January 30th, the Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter’s Oakland Tree Team will be planting 31 elm trees at San Antonio Park, in our biggest event of the season so far. It will kick off the plantings under our new grant from CAL FIRE, to reduce greenhouse gases by planting trees in East Oakland over the next three years — a partnership among the Sierra Club Tree Team, Keep Oakland Beautiful, and Oakland Parks & Recreation Foundation. Find the details of the event on Meetup.

January has been a busy month for us. We have held plantings every weekend, including the 25-tree planting at Courtland Creek Park, and several pruning events.  After planting 13 more trees last Saturday and pruning 45 on Sunday, we’re up to 128 trees planted since November, and more than 150 pruned in a month.

We’ll have more planting and pruning events on weekends in February, and tree-planting scheduled each Saturday through June 18. Join us any time you’re free! You can check the calendar on Meetup.

As always, we supply the tools and the experienced team leaders to train and supervise any volunteers new to planting or pruning.

– Derek Schubert, coordinator, Sierra Club Tree Team

February and March San Francisco Dinners: Madagascar to Morocco

Social hour 6 pm, dinner 7 pm, program 8 pm. New location: Grace Lutheran Church, 3201 Ulloa  St. at 33rd Ave. Take Muni L to 32nd Ave., walk one block to 33rd, turn left on Ulloa for one block. Street parking available. From the East Bay, take BART to the Embarcadero station and transfer to Muni L Taraval.

To reserve your seat, send a check for $22 (note new price), made out to “Sierra Club, S.F. Bay Chapter,” to Gerry Souzis at:

1801 California St., #405
San Francisco, CA 94109

Please indicate the program date, number of guests, and your phone number. Non-members are welcome. Bring your own wine or soft drinks.  Glasses and ice are available.  Let us know if you are a vegetarian.  For questions, contact Gerry between 4 and 9 pm (no morning calls please) at (415)474-4440 or gsouzis@hotmail.com.

Thu, Feb 18 — “Exploring Madagascar” with Tom Vincze

A mother and baby ring-tailed lemur. Photo by Tom Vincze, February SF Dinner speaker.

A mother and baby ring-tailed lemur. Photo by Tom Vincze, February SF Dinner speaker.

In 2014, Tom Vincze visited Madagascar with the primary goal of seeing the many exotic succulent plants growing in their natural habitat. Along the way he also saw otherworldly landscapes and numerous species of animals. Join us for a visit to the amazing and diverse island of Madagascar.

A graphic designer by trade, Tom has had an appreciation for nature from an early age. In his spare time, he collects and grows many species of plants, including succulents and his own seed-grown hybrids. His passion for these exotic plants has led him to distant lands to see them in their natural habitats. Tom is actively involved in rainforest conservation.

Checks must be received by Fri., Feb. 12.

Thu, Mar 17 — “Trekking in the Atlas Mountains” with Sigrid Selle

M’Hamid, south of Essouira, edge of the Sahara. Photo by Sigrid Selle.

M’Hamid, south of Essouira, edge of the Sahara. Photo by Sigrid Selle.

In 2007, Sigrid and her hiking companion set off to explore Morocco. They began with a visit to the western desert, while the main portion of their trip involved trekking in the Atlas Mountains and climbing Mount Toubkal, the highest peak. They were accompanied by a local guide and two muleteers, who tended to the cooking and transported their camping gear. They hiked along the Atlantic Coast, visiting the picturesque port town of Essaouira, an ancient trade link between Timbuktu and Europe, ending their trek in the former imperial city of Marrakech. Join us as world traveler, adventurer, and photographer Sigrid Selle takes us on an exciting hike across the high mountains, through seaside villages and into the edge of the Sahara Desert.

Checks must be received by Fri., March 11.

Free community screening and discussion of “This Changes Everything”

When: February 14, 2016, 6:30-9:30 PM (Valentine’s Day- a perfect chance to show some love for the planet!)
Where: Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave, Berkeley, CA

This-Changes-Everything_37x40-rnd-2-01Join us for a showing of “This Changes Everything”, an inspiring new movie about the climate change crisis and what we can do about it. The movie will be followed by a discussion, with representatives from community groups and the Sierra Club to share information about local initiatives.

Filmed in nine countries and five continents over four years, “This Changes Everything” is an epic attempt to re-imagine the vast challenge of climate change. Directed by Avi Lewis, and inspired by Naomi Klein’s international non-fiction bestseller, the film presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond. Interwoven with these stories of struggle is Klein’s narration, connecting the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there. Throughout the film, Klein builds to her most controversial and exciting idea: that we can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better. Unlike many works about the climate crisis, this is not a film that tries to scare the audience into action: it aims to empower.

Will this film change everything? No. But you could, by answering its call to action. Join us!

Watch the trailer for “This Changes Everything” here.

Notes from Paris: a Sierra Club member reports back from the climate conference

Dervin at the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference in Paris.

Dervin at the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference in Paris.

Kathy Dervin, a Berkeley resident and active member of Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter and 350 Bay Area, spent ten days in Paris for COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. She also attended COP20 in Lima in 2014. Dervin reflects  on key points, opportunities, and challenges within and beyond the UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change:

  • The Sierra Club had a delegation of about 80 people there: staff, national board members (including new President Aaron Meir), volunteers, their negotiation team, Sierra Student Coalition, and Director Michael Brune. I was extremely impressed by how the Sierra Club functioned there, they got a LOT press coverage, were all over the place, especially Beyond Coal and at the local mayor’s events, inside and outside the COP.  They did 3-4 briefings for any Sierra Club members who wanted to hear what was going on inside the negotiations. They put out a daily list of events which was really valuable since there were SO many different things happening all over Paris. My respect for the Sierra Club has grown through this experience seeing that they take their local members seriously. They are, after all, a membership organization.
  • The goal is to keep temperature increase “well below 2C with efforts to be undertaken to get to 1.5C.” The call for 1.5C goes back to COP16 (in Cancun in 2010), but was barely taken seriously last year in Lima, so this was a big shift. But how realistic is it and what will it take to get there? (Some scientists say it is not attainable without peaking world emissions by 2030 and then having negative emissions.)
  • All but 8 countries submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (aka INDCs, which outline post-2020 climate actions they intend to take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), which makes the agreement almost universal. The combined commitments of the INDCs is still leading to between 2.7-4 degrees Celsius, so those are just words so far.
  • The whole world made a COMMITMENT (of sorts) to tackle climate change together. Ratcheting up those commitments frequently (every 5 years was agreed) is necessary to meet long-term goals (decarbonization by 2050?).
  • The Agreement’s preamble contains important “principles” language, but then those issues disappear in most of the text. For example, indigenous rights was removed from the text after the preamble.
  • Developed countries said they would help pay, but only so much, and with no substantial new money offered for the Green Climate Fund. Loss and Damage is in there but not well supported. Highly vulnerable countries and island nations are still very vulnerable, but some of them have formed a new group, Coalition of Vulnerable 20 (V-20), with the Philippines as the head, to fight for their rights and help one another.
  • Developing countries will be required to do more, but say they need more finance, technical assistance, access to clean energy, and help with adaptation. Where will that help come from? And what strings will be attached?
  • Cities, regions, states/provinces, and business were recognized more than ever before, and put on a lot of events to show what they are actually doing to bring their commitments into reality. Lots of energy there! (Literally, like Marin Clean Energy and LEAN Energy; Marin Carbon Reserve also did several events on waste/compost and soil.)
  • Civil society and political/rights organizers including indigenous people (IEN), many faith groups, CAN-International, transit, women, youth, LGBTQ, health, environmental, climate justice and climate action groups, labor, foundations, and regional groups put on hundreds of side events, teach-ins, organizing sessions, forums, concerts, to meet, exchange strategies, and build the movements across the many cross-issues that climate change touches. This makes us stronger in many ways.
  • The calls for keeping fossil fuels in the ground, divesting, ending fossil fuel subsidies, ending fossil fuel hegemony — especially around COAL, but also oil and natural gas —were loud and frequent.
  • We all got more prepared for the road after Paris. Despite severe restrictions imposed by French authorities, people DID meet, gather, march, and protest, but in much reduced numbers than had been planned for.
  • We were reminded that “free trade” deals from the WTO, NAFTA to TPP and TTIP seriously undermine our efforts to protect workers rights, health, non-GMOs, promote clean energy, and to take action on climate change. WTO is being used by corporate interests even to stop local clean energy initiatives and the UN climate agreement could be challenged under these trade agreements. Fighting the adoption of TPP/TTIP is still very important.
  • The battle over climate change action in the US is at home for us. Just look at what the House and Senate are trying to do, let alone the erstwhile Republican presidential candidates. It’s scary. We are not alone. Look at how much Canada has changed in one short month with the election of Justin Trudeau!
  • What happens in California on climate matters — a lot of people look to the state as an example of what can be done. Senator Kevin de León spoke at a number of events, and so did others from the state delegation. We need to keep pushing to transition our state’s own extensive fossil fuel infrastructure, work with and protect frontline communities from harm they are experiencing NOW, fight to protect local access to rooftop solar and local clean energy alliances (Community Choice Energy/Aggregation), and a just transition for communities, workers, and future generations.
  • Where and how does system change intersect with climate change prevention (same root causes for pollution, injustice/inequity, and climate change) and how can the broader connections be made when the US seems more polarized than ever?
  • 2016 will be a very busy year, so stay tuned and find a way to get involved that works for you. We need you!

– Kathy Dervin