DAILY TITAN: FULLERTON CITY CALLS FOR IMPROVEMENTS TOWARD BATTLING CLIMATE CHANGE

February 14 – Daily Titan – Diana Tran reports – Fullerton has not updated its climate action plan since 2012, which outlined goals based on statistics from 2009 to be met by 2020.

According to the Institute for Local Government, a climate action plan is a comprehensive blueprint that details the specific activities an agency will undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Concerns surrounding climate change have only increased with the recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which stated that 2019 was the second hottest year on record.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide must be reduced to 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. However, at the current rate, net zero emissions will be achieved 20 years too late.

José Castañeda, an advocate with the Climate Action Campaign, said he feels that Fullerton is not doing enough for the environment. He said that he has given a presentation on climate change to the Fullerton City Council, spoken numerous times during public comment and contacted former Mayor Jesus Silva about taking action.

“I am working every day to meet the IPCC’s goals. I don’t think I went to sleep until 4 a.m. last night because I was working on a strategic plan,” Castañeda said.

Castañeda said the city council is updating their Community Forest Management Plan which will increase the amount of trees planted in the city to absorb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

He expressed his frustration about Fullerton’s lack of further action. He has introduced ideas such as adopting Community Choice Energy, increasing transit-oriented housing and pushing for protected bike lanes.

“It’s not whether or not we believe that we can do it — we just have to do it. There’s no other option,” Castañeda said.

At the city council meeting on Feb. 4, Ken Domer, Fullerton city manager, addressed a public commenter’s request for the city to consider Community Choice Energy. This program would shift the electricity monopoly from investor-owned utilities, like Southern California Edison, to cities and counties to increase clean and renewable energy.

“I’m sure that we’ll schedule something further on Community Choice Energy before the council, but the first will be a memo to kind of bring everyone up to speed,” said Domer.

Castañeda’s priority is to get the city to update their climate action plan, which he feels can happen with public support.

“It’s really going to be about having the residents organized to push the council to do the right thing even though they’re elected to do the right thing,” Castañeda said.

Ahmad Zahra, a council member, said he wants to renew the city’s climate action plan. He said that the city has been understaffed and overwhelmed with addressing homelessness, but they will hopefully have the plan completed by the end of 2020.

“I wanted to bring (back) the climate action plan because I noticed that the city has been sort of piecemealing things, but I think it needs to be brought back into a full scope and have an overall plan,” Zahra said.

Zahra is also the city’s representative on the board of the Orange County Water District. He said that the county’s achievement in recycling the most wastewater to drinking water in 24 hours is recorded in the Guinness World Records.

“This is the largest water recycling system in the world, and it produces about 100 million gallons of water a day,” Zahra said. “We just recently approved an expansion, so now it’s going to be 130 million gallons a day.”

Despite the accomplishment, the board is concerned about the rising sea levels contaminating the groundwater basins that Orange County draws its water from.

“I do believe that there is an urgent need to address climate change. I know there are many people who are skeptical, but I’m not one of them,” Zahra said.

Matthew Kirby, a CSUF geology professor, said he feels that people should be mindful of their water use.

“I tell my students that they should live like we’re in a perpetual drought,” Kirby said.

Despite California Governor Gavin Newsom saying the state’s drought emergency was over in April 2017, Kirby felt otherwise and said that the declaration would only influence people to be more wasteful.

“As sentient beings who are capable of rational thinking and making decisions for the betterment of our welfare, we consciously make decisions that we know will be bad for us,” Kirby said. “No other species has ever had that consciousness as far as we know where they are making decisions that would lead to their own extinction.”

Kirby said he thinks there should be more education for the public on how the environment should be treated and why climate change is important.

“Our challenge lies in getting everyone on board and making global decisions, not just statewide,” Kirby said. “You’ve got to change how we as humans live on this planet and how we perceive us as part of this planet because we are part of the planet. We’re not separate from the planet.”

At CSUF, the Capital Programs and Facilities Management website outlines the ways in which the school promotes environmental sustainability.

Stephanie Del Rosario, a sustainability analyst at CSUF, said she makes sure the school is headed in the right direction in terms of being environmentally conscious.

“I think as long as everybody can do their own little part, then all of those acts together will just have a huge impact and can literally move mountains,” Del Rosario said.

Students are encouraged by Del Rosario to use any of the 76 water refilling stations on campus, which have eliminated 12 tons of plastic in the 2017-18 academic year. CSUF also added solar-powered trellises and electric car charging stations to promote clean energy.

Del Rosario said she has more plans in store for combating climate change and is optimistic about the public’s ability to contribute.

“Sometimes folks feel helpless against climate change, but you can act in your own little corner of the world and do amazing things just by following some simple steps,” Del Rosario said.

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