December 2019

A hardy band of concerned citizens is attending Orange City Council meetings and holding court in front of city hall on Friday mornings, hoping to encourage elected officials to declare a climate state of emergency.

Advocates believe that an emergency declaration would prompt the city to identify carbon emission sources and set strategic goals to reduce them.  

“Declaring a climate emergency, which it is,” says Jonathan Spieser, “is the first step in doing something. We’re not asking the city to change itself overnight, just acknowledge that action must be taken to reduce carbon emissions.”

“If the city declared an emergency,” says Johanna Spieser, “that would get residents’ attention and people, one by one, would do what they could to help meet carbon reduction goals.”

The Orange contingent’s efforts are part of a global campaign to urge governments, large and small, to de-carbonize. To date, some two dozen municipalities in California (none in Orange County) and 1,140 governments in 25 countries have declared climate emergencies and committed to action to reduce carbon emissions.  

Orange has taken preliminary steps to address the issue. The city’s General Plan lists as a goal, “to prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change and promote practices that decrease the city’s contribution to climate change.”  

Orange has, for example, converted all streetlights and traffic signals to LED fixtures and installed electric vehicle charging stations. It employs a fleet of electric and CNG vehicles, and retrofitted a fire station with solar panels. Its new parking garage uses solar and sustainable lighting and encourages bus, train and bike travel.

That’s not enough, the people holding the signs say. “Single projects -- one here, one there -- are not part of a strategic plan,” Jonathan Spieser told the council at its Nov. 14 meeting.  “Congratulations on what’s been done, but how is the city going to change itself in 20 years? What’s the long-term plan?”   

“Droughts, floods, wildfires,” Johanna Spieser counts off. “We’ve already reached one degree Celcius of global warming. The longer we wait, the bigger the problem. This is an emergency.”

Demonstrators ask the City of Orange to declare a climate emergency. Photo by Tony Richards

Residents call for climate action in Orange