Santa Clara County lawmakers declare a Climate Emergency
Public comments lasted longer than 45 minutes in support of Supervisor Cortese's climate emergency declaration. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese’s resolution to declare a climate emergency was approved by the Board of Supervisors earlier this week.

The declaration acknowledges that global climate change is “caused by human activities” that have resulted in a climate emergency that impacts the well-being health and safety of Santa Clara County residents. It demands immediate action to address the causes and effects of global warming, but does not yet include any actionable items for either local residents or government officials. to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency and to restore the climate for future generations.

After serving on the Board of Supervisors for more than a decade, Cortese said he’s seen the county transition from having no environmental stewardship goals to nearly becoming 100 percent renewable by 2019’s year end. The resolution is “another leap forward,” he said.

“Our planet, our livelihoods and the livelihoods of generations to come are at stake,” Cortese said. “We are at an important junction in our history where folks from all walks of life are uniting behind a global mission to restore the climate for future generations.”

The declaration was unanimously approved with Supervisor Cindy Chavez absent. The county now joins a handful of Bay Area cities that have declared a climate emergency, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Cupertino and Santa Cruz,  to spur citywide efforts to end greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a local economy that is ecologically sustainable.

Dozens voiced support for the measure, including groups such as the Ygrene Energy Fund, Sierra Club, 350 Silicon Valley, the League of Conservation Voters, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Carbon-Free Silicon Valley and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority.

Linda Hutchins-Knowles, co-founder of Mothers Out Front’s local chapter, said this type of declaration is a responsibility of all local leaders.

“I’m coming to you today as a mother who’s actually terrified of her children’s future,” Hutchins-Knowles said. “I rely on you and all leaders to step up and do everything in your power to protect our children. Anything less than a climate emergency is not understanding the reality’s that we’re facing.”

Longtime resident Linda Baxter, who spoke on behalf of Orchard City Indivisible, backed the measure but reminded fellow supporters of a sentiment Board Chairman Joe Simitian once told her: “It’s just a resolution.”

“It needs to really take hold and be acted upon now,” Baxter said. “I want (my newborn granddaughter) to grow up in a place that is clean and healthy. Please, do more than just resolve; Do it.”

Contact Katie Lauer at klauer77@gmail.com or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

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