Long Beach State and the city of Long Beach are combining efforts in the fight against climate change with several sustainability programs looking to reduce greenhouse emissions, among other pollutants, over the next decade.
After former President Donald J. Trump decided to leave the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, CSULB and the city decided to join initiatives that would continue to abide by the rules set by the accord.
Such initiatives include a collective called “We Are Still In,” which now has over 3,900 pledges and was created to provide structure to hundreds of institutions, cities and Native communities committed to addressing the climate crisis.
After the Biden-Harris administration showed full support of this issue by rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement on Inauguration Day, the United States has officially become “once again a party” to the accord as of Friday, Feb. 19, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
It’s a good day in our fight against the climate crisis, as the United States is once again a Party to the Paris Agreement. The work to reduce our emissions has already begun, and we will waste no time in engaging our partners around the world to build our global resilience.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 19, 2021
Moving forward, “We Are Still In” continues to call for national mobilization on climate action and clean recovery.
“I’m glad we’re back in the Paris accord,” CSULB President Jane Close Conoley told the Daily Forty-Niner. “I wasn’t going to let [Trump] taking us out of it stop our commitment to moving toward carbon neutrality.”
In addition to joining the collective, CSULB has implemented sustainability programs and policies, going as far back as 2014, that look to achieve climate neutrality by 2030 and reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor and fluorinated gases, create a natural process called the greenhouse effect that helps regulate the earth’s temperature. However, man-made objects like cars and refineries emit large amounts of these gases, which absorb energy from the sun and produce radiated energy.
This effect warms the planet far from what is considered normal, worsening the effects of climate change.
“I know we can’t turn back all the effects of climate change, but we can slow it down and hopefully stop the rise in global temperature,” Conoley said. “People have to be willing to change, and that’s hard.”
Since its climate change efforts began, CSULB has created the President’s Commission on Sustainability and made annual greenhouse gas emission reports available to the public. The Beach has also joined the Second Nature Climate Leadership Commitment, a pledge among university presidents and chancellors in the fight against climate change, and the Climate Leader Network.
Through these efforts, CSULB has managed to implement new sustainability measures, including the addition of solar panels on campus, in which the university receives 30% of its energy.
And to get students and faculty involved in the sustainability efforts, Conoley said there are plans to move the university’s organic garden to the center of campus in the future.
“One of my goals would be that everyone that graduates from Cal State Long Beach leaves with a commitment to save the planet and [is] not just waiting for somebody else to do it,” Conoley said. “We really want to educate a lot of people to be part of the solution.”
Meanwhile, the city Long Beach, which joined the “We Are Still In” pledge alongside CSULB four years ago, has been working on its own climate action plans that look to reduce carbon emissions and maintain a healthy population.
“I think, obviously, it doesn’t take a scientist to realize that sea-level rise is happening, it’s happening Long Beach,” Mayor Robert Garcia told the Forty-Niner. “We have temperature spikes which are more regular in Long Beach but of course across the country as well.”
Garcia said that the new Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, which was proposed to the city last November, touches on everything from reducing poor air quality in low-income communities to city infrastructures looking to provide clean energy.
“The thing about Long Beach is there’s a history of course for many, many years of oil production and fossil fuels production,” Garcia said. “We’re really trying to change from that, and we’ve been doing so for the last few years and moving away from that, and a lot of it’s been working.”
As the second-busiest port in the nation after the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach is home to a large number of the state’s oil refineries. The Wilmington Oil Field, which stretches through Long Beach and operates in partnership with the city, is the third-largest oil field in the contiguous United States.
According to a 2017 NAACP report, there are “health and environmental justice issues that come as a result of a concentration of refineries and other facilities in lower-income neighborhoods.” The report found that oil and gas pollution have been taking a “serious toll” on Black communities in particular.
Those most affected by climate change effects, like continued rising temperatures and sea levels, include communities of color in North, Central and West Long Beach, some of which face higher health burdens as a result of these environmental issues, according to the CAAP.
Office of Sustainability Communications Specialist Courtney Chatterson said the city of Long Beach is working to address these issues by creating programs that target disadvantaged communities, including a fruit tree planting program and an emergency efficiency program to reduce households’ greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2010, Long Beach created a sustainability plan that looked to reduce emissions from city facilities by 15% by 2020, Chatterson said. By 2015, Long Beach had reached 16%.
Though the 2020 data is not yet available, Chatterson said her department is “anticipating an even greater reduction” and more progress toward improved health conditions for these communities of color.
But while Long Beach has managed to set a nationwide standard for clean act policies, including the port’s Clean Air Action Plan, “there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Chatterson said.
Chatterson said that the city hopes to lay the foundation for future policies that not only reduce greenhouse emissions but also “take into account the inequalities that we see across our city and the impacts that will definitely be hitting certain communities harder than others.”
“What we need to do to make sure that we’re taking care of all of our residents,” Chatterson said. “And everyone has an equal chance at flourishing in the city.”
Julia Terbeche, news editor, contributed to this story.