On August 11, leading climate organizations, elected officials, candidates and local activists stood knee deep in the waters of Mission Bay to demonstrate the effects the climate crisis will have locally and launch the Fossil Fuel Free Pledge. The initiative aims to end the fossil fuel industry’s anti-climate agenda while celebrating and providing transparency regarding where organizations, elected officials and candidates receive funding. Those who take the pledge agree to not accept any fossil fuel money as part of their commitment to an equitable and climate safe future. Speakers at the event included Carlsbad Councilmember Priya Bhat-Patel, candidate Tommy Hough and representatives with San Diego Coastkeeper, SanDiego350’s Youth4Climate, CleanEarth4Kids, Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation and San Diego Urban Sustainability Coalition. Additional attendees included Surfrider San Diego, SD-SEQUEL, candidate Georgette Gòmez and other climate activists.
It’s no secret that fossil fuel companies give funding to nonprofits and elected officials, and activists note that allegiance is often expected in return for those funds. Some nonprofit organizations that have accepted fossil fuel money have publicly supported a fossil fuel company’s anti-climate initiative, even when the initiative conflicts with the organizations’ mission, values and hurts the communities being served by the nonprofit. Fossil fuel companies have also invested billion of dollars to support elected officials and candidates who will vote for policies and laws that continue to benefit polluters.
Locally, two big fossil fuel corporations contributing funds to nonprofit organizations and candidate campaigns are San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and its parent company, Sempra Energy. SDG&E touts its renewable energy content in its state-mandated renewable portfolio standard program, although Voice of San Diego reported last year that SDG&E Walks Back Claim it Delivers 45 Percent Renewable Energy, citing only 31 percent of energy San Diegans consume is zero carbon. While SDG&E claims to support clean energy, their net energy metering proposal at the California Public Utilities Commission would erode the economics of rooftop solar, making solar out of reach for many Californians while setting what activists say is a dangerous nationwide precedent to rely on dirty energy for a longer period of time. If SDG&E’s net metering proposal is adopted, it would also lessen the benefits that the City of San Diego’s new Solar Equity Program has for San Diegans in communities of concern. Meanwhile Sempra Energy sold off renewable assets and continues to invest heavily in fossil fuels, primarily fracked gas, which accelerates the climate crisis and contributes to various climate injustices in California.
“You cannot buy my destruction. You cannot pay to poison my children. You cannot pay to poison my communities,” said Yusef Miller, a board member of CleanEarth4Kids and a NAACP North County leader, in a passionate message to the local fossil fuel company SDG&E. Miller’s high school aged son also spoke at the event.
With the climate crisis worsening, scientists, leaders and climate activists say it is now more urgent than ever to end our reliance on fossil fuels. Divesting from fossil fuel support and standing behind companies that prioritize clean energy, green jobs and communities of concern has never been more critical. In fact, earlier this year, the San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors made the unanimous decision to divest from fossil fuel companies. This allows the County to invest its money in companies that do not detrimentally impact the environment and accelerate the climate crisis.
"The fossil fuel industry has invested millions of dollars towards campaign contributions, organizations and front groups to ensure billions of dollars in subsidies and laws that benefit polluters,” said Karinna Gonzalez, Climate Justice Policy Manager with Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation. “The Fossil Fuel Free Pledge is starting here in San Diego, and it will cut off the fossil fuel industry’s influence so that we can make meaningful progress towards a just and livable future."
Fossil Fuel Free pledgees include SanDiego350, Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation, Bike San Diego, San Diego Coastkeeper, Surfrider San Diego, San Diego Urban Sustainability Coalition, CleanEarth4Kids, Democratic Socialists of America San Diego, North County Climate Change Alliance, SD-SEQUEL, San Diego Bike Coalition, South Bay Sustainable Communities, Climate Reality Project San Diego, Environmental Center of San Diego, University Christian Church, City of San Diego Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe, Carlsbad City Councilmember Priya Bhat-Patel and candidates Tommy Hough, Georgette Gómez, Tiffany Boyd-Hodgson and Cody Petterson. All local elected officials, candidates and nonprofit organizations are invited to take the pledge and join the movement for a healthier and more equitable future.
“As we stand here knee-deep in water, I would be remiss if I did not point out that this is our future if we allow fossil fuel companies to donate a penny to the environment while spending thousands to destroy it,” said Lucero Sanchez, Campaigns Manager with San Diego Coastkeeper.
The Fossil Fuel Free Pledge launched targeting nonprofit organizations, elected officials and candidates, however, there are plans to expand the categories as well as the geographic region. For more information or to take the Fossil Fuel Free Pledge or to get involved, visit www.fossilfuelfreepledge.org.