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Put the power to solve the climate crisis in the peoples’ hands
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Put the power to solve the climate crisis in the peoples’ hands



It’s clear that top-down approaches to climate action simply don’t work, so we must implement a new model.

Heidi Harmon, CalMatters Special.

Heidi Harmon was San Luis Obispo’s former mayor. The city set new standards in terms of municipal climate policy during her three terms. She was recently named senior public affairs director for the Romero Institute’s Let’s Green CA! program.

“Mom – I’m really scared. Is this the apocalypse?” 

I woke up blurry-eyed at night to receive a text message from Emet (one of my children). Emet had just read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Latest forecast. For the first time in my life, I didn’t know how to respond to my kid. I couldn’t make Emet feel better. Because I was scared too.

All my life, I’ve prided myself on being a good mother. Emet and Zoie are adults now, and they’re embarking on their own futures. But as their mom, I worry about what kind of future they’ll have. 

California’s wildfires, drought, and deadly heat waves are threatening our livelihoods and lives. Despite recent warnings, these threats continue to exist. COP26 negotiationsThe Washington Post reported in Glasgow that the planet is on track to meet its goals. Warming of 2.5 degrees Celsius is catastrophic. Our children will live in a world of increased disaster, increased conflict and intensified environmental racism, without taking drastic action. Unrecognizable world for their parents.

It’s always been my role to assure them, “It’ll be OK.” I can’t do that anymore. That breaks my heart.

It’s time to do something about it: and I’m not holding my breath for COP27.

I became a climate activist over two decades ago because of my love for my children. They were the catalyst that inspired me to run for San Luis Obispo mayor. My three-term term as mayor made my city a national leader in climate policies. 

One of the most important was set by us Ambitious goals for carbon neutrality of any city in the United States, implemented a carbon-free building code, and joined and advocated for the expansion of the clean energy utility that now powers California’s Central Coast. In partnership with our community, my colleagues and I made San Luis Obispo a model of equitable climate action for the region, but all our victories at the local level aren’t enough to calm my children’s fears. 

I had to think further. I joined the Let’s Green CA!I took initiative and committed myself to making California a leading climate action nation for the rest of the world. 

The state’s history of environmental leadership is remarkable. It has celebrated the first Earth Day and led the nation to higher fuel efficiency standards. Today, we’re falling behindAssembly Speaker Anthony Rendon recently declared that. But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

California, the fifth-largest country in the world, has the ability to set an example for other states. This is our moral responsibility, even if there is no federal leadership. That’s why I’m calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to Declare a climate emergency.

An emergency declaration would not only unlock significant executive powers and funding to confront the climate crisis with the urgency it requires, it would alert Californians – and all Americans – to the existential challenge we face.

The science is clear about the climate crisis, and the technology to fix it is there. All that’s missing is the political will to act. It’s clear that top-down approaches to climate action, like those on display at COP26, simply don’t work. So we must implement a new model, one that puts the power in the peoples’ hands. 

Instead of top-down, Let’s Green CA! We will work from the ground up to solve the climate crisis. When the California Legislature convenes in 2022, we expect to introduce legislation to electrify California’s homes and personal transportation infrastructure over the next decade, remedy historic environmental injustice and ensure good-paying union jobs for the professionals who will build California out of the climate crisis. We’re envisioning a future in which we remove toxic fossil fuels from our day to day lives; a future in which our homes and cars are all fossil fuel-free within the next decade.

It’s time for the state to get on board. Let’s ensure that all of our children look to the future with hope, not fear. Together, we’ll make California the leader our children, our nation, and our world needs. The power is within our reach.


Heidi Harmon has also contributed to that article California officials should investigate SoCalGas threat to a Protest by COVID-19 against San Luis Obispo.


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