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Climate Activists Launch the Fossil Fuel Free Pledge Knee Deep in Mission Bay

Climate activists knee deep in water at the Fossil Fuel Free San Diego press event

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

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Let’s Go! San Diego Transit Relief

Do you live in San Diego County? How satisfied are you with the current state of roads and public transportation? You may be approached, if you have not been already, with these questions by a friendly volunteer in the next few months as the November 2023 deadline to submit measures for the 2024 ballot quickly approaches.

The County’s transit infrastructure has been in decline for many years now. Local governments in the region have poured millions of taxpayers’ dollars into expanding freeways, but we know from looking at Los Angeles and other regions that more lanes increase the number of cars on the road. More cars on the road means more air pollution, which disproportionately burdens the health and well-being of BIPOC communities and communities of concern. 

It’s time for us to come together and create change. Let’s Go! San Diego is a campaign focused on building a better future for local families by delivering essential transportation improvements: reducing congestion, upgrading highway safety, fixing roads and making public transit more reliable and accessible. Some of the other projects that Let’s Go! will fund include:

  • Purple trolley line extending from South County to Sorrento Valley
  • Moving Rail Line connecting to San Diego International Airport
  • Increased service on bus and trolley routes
  • Habitat preservation and stormwater upgrades

Vehicles make up 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California, 80 percent of nitrogen oxide pollution and 90 percent of diesel particulate matter pollution. Thus, an improvement to our transportation system means progress for meeting local and statewide climate goals

So, how will this be funded? The measure proposes a half-cent increase to the County’s sales tax, meaning for every $20 you spend, $0.10 will go towards improving our transit system. Tax increases are not often appealing, however, we wholeheartedly believe that the impact of this measure far outweighs the individual costs. The lack of viable transportation alternatives for County residents limits access to jobs, education, medical offices and recreational facilities. San Diego County needs more and better options, which is why it is crucial that residents bring this measure into next year’s ballot.

The broad coalition supporting this important effort is composed of over 30 nonprofits, unions, environment groups and businesses. Launched by SanDiego350 and the Environmental Health Coalition, this grassroots effort continues to grow in strength. Check out the complete list of endorsements here: Let’s Go! San Diego Endorsements.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet, visit one of the locations here to bring this measure one step closer to becoming a reality. Also, consider joining the campaign to stay up to date on our progress and spread awareness to friends, family and neighbors so that San Diego may deliver long-awaited transit improvements to the County.

Photo Credit: Let’s Go! San Diego

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The Future of Schools is Electric

I (Karen Cederholm, Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation Climate Justice Intern) remember when my high school installed solar panels in its vast and barren parking lot; the blacktop used to capture so much heat you could feel it radiate back up at the end of the day. It was wonderful to see that the empty space was now producing clean energy while also providing shade to student and faculty vehicles during a typical sunny day in San Diego. Now, students from other schools within the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) will be able to see this transition as well as the Board of Education recently passed a fossil fuel free resolution on April 26, 2023 to make all schools in the district fully electric.

Spearheaded by the Schools Team of the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition, which we are members of, activists and students worked effortfully to call upon the Board of Education to commit the district to phasing out the use of fossil fuels. SanDiego350 garnered over 600 signatures on its petition and organized a rally outside of the district office on April 25 before the board meeting, demanding the adoption of a clean energy resolution. Participants also made comments to the board during the meeting, advocating for a fossil fuel free future (check out the Fossil Fuel Free Pledge where businesses, nonprofits, philanthropists and elected officials make this commitment!). With this new resolution, bus fleets and maintenance vehicles currently running on fossil fuels will be phased out, appliances in existing buildings will be replaced with electric ones and a reach code will be established for new construction. A Green Jobs curriculum will also be established to raise awareness of environmentally focused professions, and SDUSD will enroll in San Diego Community Power’s Power100 by the end of 2024, using 100 percent renewable and carbon-free energy.

This transition to clean energy is happening nationwide. The Environmental Protection Agency currently has a Clean School Bus Program running through 2026 that is distributing $1 billion to 389 public and charter school districts, and so far there are over 5,000 committed electric school buses across the U.S. Our own Solar Moonshot Program helps organizations make the switch to solar energy affordable by awarding grants to nonprofits. Solar and storage systems act as resilience hubs for schools and the surrounding community, and so far we have helped 9 solar projects happen across the country. Right now, we have $750,000 to help schools across the U.S. adopt solar power. If you know of an educational institution that wants to go solar but requires additional funding, consider sharing or submitting an application, which is located at the bottom of our Solar Moonshot Program page ( 

Times are changing, and it’s more important than ever for public entities to get behind a green future. These switches are vital to improving the health of students, providing equitable education and reducing the human-carbon footprint that worsens climate change. If you are interested in reading more about climate education and why it matters, check out our previous blog post.

Photo credit: Solar Moonshot Program awardee, School District of West Salem

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Earth Day 2023: Invest in Our Planet

Earth Day is an annual event created to celebrate and be thankful for everything the Earth does for us. It is a time to strengthen our relationship with nature, give back as well as find ways to protect our planet for current and future generations. The theme for Earth Day this year is “Invest in Our Planet.” This theme resonates with me (Danylo Lesko, Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation’s Climate Justice Intern) as a current graduate student because education is the best way to invest in our planet. Education is critical in driving the transition to a sustainable future, providing the tools and resources for future generations to adapt to and address the climate crisis justly and equitably. By increasing the accessibility and quality of environmental education and shaping people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors towards the climate crisis, the world will see more effective, equitable and participatory change. Education can encourage people to change their behavior and attitudes and help them make informed decisions. It can empower all people and help motivate our youth to take action. 

Investing in climate education is essential to provide the tools and skills needed to drive a transition to a sustainable world. The climate crisis is magnifying the inequalities present in our societies, requiring innovative solutions that address these vulnerabilities. Investing in environmental and climate education can help change behaviors that harm the environment and transform attitudes and knowledge towards actions that promote positive environmental outcomes. Forward-thinking education needs to adapt to a rapidly changing world and provide future generations with the knowledge and practical skills they need to protect our planet and those who depend on it. Orienting education to include climate action and climate justice are important steps that help provide pathways for greater involvement and societal transformation. Enhancing climate literacy by including climate justice and climate equity will help ensure students develop confidence and passion for making a positive difference in society as activists and leaders. 

The climate crisis has already impacted young people with various concerns about their future, including where they will live, what work they will do and their quality of life. There is no national consensus about the importance of climate education, and the U.S. needs to have national science standards. Instead, each state determines what its schools teach, which can vary significantly between states. In 2012, the Next Generation Science Standards were developed to create a science standard for climate education. However, the standards are voluntary, and only some states have adopted these standards. Climate education allows for people to care for the planet while caring for each other. Social-emotional learning refers to the skills people need to be successful in life, such as goal setting, managing emotions, problem-solving, cultivating empathy, relationship skills and self-awareness. Incorporating social-emotional learning in climate education recognizes that humans are part of nature, helping promote an understanding of environmental justice issues and fostering collaborative problem-solving that addresses both planetary and human needs. Investing in climate education provides pathways for future generations to explore solutions that tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. Investing in climate education is a way for students not only to learn about the climate crisis, but it also provides an opportunity for students to realize their own agency as climate justice leaders through interdisciplinary approaches rooted in social justice. 

Student leaders in Portland, Oregon helped transform climate education in the Portland Public Schools by advocating for a greater focus on climate and equity in their education. These student leaders helped initiate a climate justice curriculum that highlights climate resilience and how responsive the earth and marginalized and frontlines communities are to the impacts of climate change. Throughout the curriculum, students gain a deep understanding of how intertwined the climate crisis and climate justice really are and the ways both impact every aspect of their lives. A big part of this curriculum is looking at solutions and policy, which gives students an opportunity to identify how they can take action to address climate action and climate justice head on. Such approaches provide students with the background information they need to engage in activism that is very meaningful while providing a way to combat climate anxieties they may feel and empowering students to become transformative racial equity leaders and global stewards. When climate education is rooted in social equity that empowers students to take intersectional approaches that address all aspects of the climate crisis it helps lift up communities that are disproportionately affected, helping lift everyone with them. 

Each of us has the effective power to make our voices heard through the choices we make, our civic actions and personal interactions. What we do and how we do it has a huge impact on the planet and civic society. We can use our power to support actions that protect our environment and investing in education provides a pathway for collective action and transformation! We invite you to celebrate Earth Day this year by supporting climate education in your communities, and what better way than turning learning into action? Find an Earth Day event near you here, join in climate activism and celebrate the accomplishments of advancing climate justice and equity! 

Photo credit: Earth Day

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