CODE RED California: Elected officials from across the state urge Newsom to declare a Climate Emergency to accelerate phase out of fossil fuels

Over 320 elected officials demand action with acceleration of clean energy economy - Newsom’s $15 billion plan doesn’t address the root cause fueling the climate crisis

During Climate Week, Elected Officials to Protect America – California held a press conference to ask Gov. Newsom publicly to declare a climate emergency, thereby following scientific recommendations in the recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The report spurred UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to say, “This is a Code Red for humanity.”  The climate crisis was also a major topic at this week’s U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. Just last week, after another report found key nations are far behind the Paris Accord goals,he added, “It’s time to read the alarm bell. We are on the verge of the abyss.”

The event was called: Code Red California and meant to be a wakeup call for Governor Gavin Newsom to take immediate action to abate the effects of the climate crisis which would directly save lives and livelihoods. 

The full YouTube recording is here:

With Gov. Newsom’s position secure, elected officials across the state who supported him say that this is the critical time for a bold course of action to mitigate the apocalyptic fires and drought fueled by human caused climate crises. 

During the press conference Gov. Newsom announced his “California Comeback Plan” that invests $15 billion to mitigate the climate crisis in multiple ways. However, none of them include accelerating the phase out of fossil fuel extraction and production. At the press conference the elected officials addressed Newsom’s announcement, as well.

“While EOPA California applauds the Governor’s measures today, as long as California is drilling, refining and producing oil and gas we are guilty of fueling the climate crisis,” said Dominic Frongillo, Executive Director/Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America. “He has to address the core issue. Fossil fuel companies have taken priority over the lives and livelihoods of millions of Califonians for too long. The health of every Califonian has to be valued over the bottom line of these corporations.”

Over 300 Californian elected officials from every corner of the state have already sent an EOPA California letter to the governor identifying major steps he could take to mitigate the health risks that have led to premature deaths because of toxins and pollutants associated with fossil fuel extraction and processing. EOPA California then met with Secretary Crowfoot from the governor’s office, while waiting for a meeting with the governor. After numerous communiques, on September 4th EOPA California asked the governor to declare a climate emergency. His office has yet to respond.

“Over 320 elected officials should never be overlooked by their governor. EOPA California’s letter shows a clear path for his administration to mitigate this emergency and save lives. In the letter, EOPA request he stop new fossil fuel permits, phase out fossil fuels immediately, and institute 2,500-foot buffers between drill operations and community sites, while ensuring a just and realistic transition for workers,” said Nicole Twohig-Chamberlain, EOPA Development and California State Director

“California continues to be one of the largest producers of oil and gas in America,” said Firebaugh City Councilmember Felipe Perez, EOPA California Leadership Council.  “As long as the state produces the fuel of the climate crisis, we cannot seriously claim to be decarbonizing the economy — for the Californian economy is intertwined in the global economy. We must stop fueling the flames of climate change caused by the oil and gas industry. As long as the governor issues drilling permits, lets fracking continue, and allows refineries to operate we are part of the problem. We need to show the way and be a part of the solution.” 

According to the US Drought Monitor,90 percent of the state is mired in the “extreme drought” category, which has heightened conditions for fires to spread easily. The fires this year have already put the state on track to outpace that of 2020, theworst on record. As of September 22, 2021, a total of 7,595 fires have been recorded, burning 2,348,637 acresacross the state.

The IPCC report’s recommended solution for the crisis is, “strong, sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases, could quickly make air quality better, and in 20 to 30 years global temperatures could stabilize.”  For EOPA Californian elected officials, that clearly means Gov. Newsom needs to stand up to the challenge. California remains one of the largest oil producers in the nation, despite the state’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2045. 

“We’ll never forget the devastating Thomas fire that burned 281,000 acres. Then our region suffered the debris flow which killed so many in Santa Barbara County, when the rains came, and then the Woolsey fire, which destroyed more acres…. Now every year we fear the worst but pray for the best. Fire season is now all year long!  We need real climate action. Fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure expansions have fueled the droughts, fires and intense heat waves that have wreaked havoc destroying the homes and livelihoods of thousands and tragically have taken a life. The governor has the power to turn the tide with immediate plans to phase out oil and gas and invest in clean, renewable energy—if he declares a climate emergency,” said Ventura County Supervisor Carmen Ramirez, EOPA California Leadership Council. “California should live up to its reputation as a climate leader. Governor Newsom must declare a climate emergency. This is our code red.”

“With our LA100 pathway to 100 percent renewable energy, Los Angeles is doing its part to prove true the promise those of us in the state legislature in 2006 made with AB-32, the Global Warming Solutions Act,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, EOPA California Leadership Council. “But we must do so much more, and quickly. We know how out of control the wildfires are up north. Here in Southern California, the Skirball Fire nearly burned down Bel Air, Woolsey burned much of Malibu and Agoura Hills, and Thomas blazed through both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. We must declare Climate Code Red for California and mobilize all sectors toward a carbon neutral 2030 to do not only what’s possible, but to do what’s necessary to eliminate our climate emissions and make the impossible possible. The children who will be our ambassadors to 2100 have now been born. Let us look back with their eyes and ask again, every single day, if we are doing enough.”

Many more stories of how the climate crisis has impacted communities across the state were told, along with local solutions that lawmakers have been able to implement. 

“Serving my community is an honor, but I never imagined having to warn people to be cautious about breathing. Even here fire smoke has invaded, putting people at risk. We’ve had so many threats over the past years, from heat waves to the drought and the fires. All because we have not lived up to our reputation as an environmental state. We can’t say we’re combating the climate crisis when we allow oil and gas industries to operate without safety restrictions, like setbacks from drills. We need the governor to wake up to the dangers we have in our backyards and take real action,” said Andrew Lewis, Vice President North Westwood Neighborhood Council.

“Walking in our parks I’m gratified seeing families enjoying nature. But as more fire smoke invades, the less healthy it becomes to even be outside. As the MCE Clean Energy Board Director, I know we’re working hard to ensure our city is as energy efficient as it can possibly be. It’s good for everyone’s health, as well as the planet’s and all our futures. It flummoxes me that elected officials in our Sacramento Capitol can’t do the same. That’s why Governor Newsom must take independent action and declare a climate emergency. The world is in a Code Red. We can take immediate actions that will abate this crisis. It’s time for bold actions that will create thousands of union jobs and help transition workers from occupations in the oil and gas industries that are making the crisis worse​​,” said Councilmember Devin Murphy, Pinole City, CA and Director of MCE Clean Energy Board.

Unfortunately, local solutions fall short of the direct action that could and should be taken by state government to abate the increasingly dangerous results of extreme weather induced by human-caused climate change. The elected officials said, for statewide change Gov. Newsom needs to take action. While Newsom has taken small steps to phase out fracking, it’s too little too late. The crisis is roaring ahead.

“The IPCC report should be one of the most powerful wakeup calls we have ever received. Our rapidly changing climate is making it clear every day — with historic wildfires, floods, droughts, and extreme storms — that we are running out of time. So, when I got a text in the middle of the night from Emet, one of my children who had just read the IPCC report, saying, “I’m really scared, is this the apocalypse?,” it was the wake-up call I needed to realize, while I had done a lot as small-town mayor; it was time to recommit and reprioritize my life for our climate and our children’s future. Now I’m asking Governor Newsom to heed this wake-up call and declare a climate emergency code red, so immediate actions can be taken,” siad Heidi Harmon, Senior Public Affairs Director of the Romero Institute’s Let’s Green CA Program & former Mayor San Luis Obispo.

According to the California Air Resources Board, the climate crisis considerably increases the frequency and severity of wildfires. As the temperature has risen there is a direct correlation with the intensity and number of fires that have increased over a thirty to fifty-year period, according to Miles O’Brian, science correspondent, of thePBS Newshour. Between 1985 and 2015, wildfires in California doubled as a direct result of changing climate conditions.

While there has been some focus on how California needs more fire mitigation. selective burning, like the state’s indigenous people did would help.

“Traditionally, Native people used fire as a land management tool and in ceremony. Our ancestors burned  from sea level to the high mountain peaks, stewarding the forest to ensure healthy outcomes for the plants, the animals, and the people. Wildfire protection was a bi-product of these burn practices! The fire suppression era uprooted these natural land management practices, devastating the delicate balance of the ecosystem. In the face of the current climate crisis we are facing, it is imperative that decision makers heed the knowledge of thousands of years of successful land stewardship when we, as Native people, took care of the land we now call the United States,” said Margo Robbins, Executive Director, Cultural Fire Management Council.

Exasperating the problem is that more people are living in forested areas that historically burned periodically. Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem in the west but from 1992–2015 there were 32,000,000 more homes built in fire prone western areas.

These record-breaking fires are releasing unprecedented amounts of carbon dioxide and particulate-matter pollution into the atmosphere, which last year led to the first increase in wildfire emissions in the U.S. since 2015, Bloomberg reported. This year we’re on track to do the same.  

In some spots, the intensity of fires has been up to hundreds of times higher than the average from 2003 to 2019. Studies have shown that exposure to air pollutants increases risk of dying from COVID-19. And the fire season is nowhere near the end.

In President Biden’s address to the U.N. General Assembly this week, he called for unity to address the climate crisis—the “code red” facing humanity.

Governor Newsom needs to lead by declaring a climate emergency for California.

Nationally, aEOPA letter with nearly 300 lawmakers who support climate emergency action was released on September 14, to show  the wide ranging support from bipartisan elected officials that want immediate action.

About Elected Officials to Protect America: Elected Officials to Protect America is a network of current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting our planet and people. EOPA is committed to solving the climate crisis, ensuring environmental justice, and protecting our lands and waters. We educate through value-based storytelling, training lawmakers, and connecting elected officials to inspire strong environmental leadership.

The mission of the Cultural Fire Management Council (CFMC) is to facilitate the practice of cultural burning on the Yurok Reservation and Ancestral lands, which will lead to a healthier ecosystem for all plants and animals, long term fire protection for residents, and provide a platform that will in turn support the traditional hunting and gathering activities of Yurok.



September 23, 2021


Contact: Ramona du Houx,
Communications Director
Elected Officials to Protect America
Cell: 207.319.4727