02/21/2013 04:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Supervisor John Avalos: Forward on Climate Change

Last Sunday, I was invited to speak at the Bay Area Forward on Climate Rally, organized by local activists including, the Sierra Club, and CREDO. It was great to see Justin Herman Plaza filled with 5,000 people calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline and ready to take action locally to fight climate change. Here is the text of my speech.


When I was in elementary school in the early 1970s, the modern environmental movement was just beginning. I remember my family had an Ecology Flag beach towel. We were very proud of it and thought ourselves part of the consciousness that was sweeping the nation. I grew up believing that our government would be taking action to safeguard our air, our soil, and our water.

I remember discussing -- not debating, but discussing -- in my classroom about fossil fuels and the greenhouse gas effect and global warming. That was back in 1979. We weren't debating whether climate change was real then. How is that we're now debating these scientific facts now?
My generation grew up with an awareness of global warming, so I ask myself: How have we allowed the world to reach the tipping point of climate crisis and calamity? Could it be the stranglehold big money and big oil have on politics and policymakers?

Consider these facts:

  • The price of a barrel of oil:117
  • The fossil fuel industry's annual profits:134 billion
  • Fossil Fuel industry campaign contributions to congressional candidates:347 million
  • Annual U.S. subsidies to fossil fuel producers:12 billion--four times the amount of our investments in climate protection.

The fact that we have dithered away 20 years of inaction against climate change and instead debated whether global warming is real underscores the stranglehold fossil fuel companies have on our nation. Here in California we are the only oil-producing state that does not have an oil extraction fee.

When fossil fuel corporations and fossil fuel-dependent power companies like PG&E can only see as far as their next quarterly reports, people concerned about sustaining communities of people and plant and animal life on this planet must think decades ahead. We must act today to safeguard our future. What we do today will not affect just our own children, but generations to come.

Twenty years of inaction on climate change means we need system change. There is an alternative. A democracy that's founded on an economic system that promotes sustainable life and communities, that provides affordable housing, universal health care and high quality education for everyone -- these are all essential parts of a healthy and clean environment.

In SF we know we cannot wait for the federal government, so we have taken action into our own hands to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Just last year we approved the CleanPowerSF program which will bring 100% renewable electricity right to your home or business if you want to have it. Go to to sign up for updates on when it will be available later this year.

I am proud to help the Fossil Free campaign -- following the lead of Seattle and students on more than 200 college campuses -- by introducing a resolution urging San Francisco's Retirement Board to divest from fossil fuels companies. Our $15.6 billion retirement fund includes over $1 billion in investments that are connected to the 200 companies with the largest holdings of fossil fuel reserves. We're going to pull our dollars out of those companies and reinvest in local, renewable energy.

But because PG&E and the fossil fuel companies have a stranglehold on our political process -- even here in San Francisco -- we need your help. Please write to the Board of Supervisors and tell us to divest from fossil fuel companies.

And don't forget: we are the 99 percent. Thank you for taking to the streets today. Now more than ever we have to be warriors for our environment. Remember the future. Think generations ahead. All life is precious, and only a growing national and global movement for real system change will make the difference.

No to the fossil fuel corporate stranglehold. Yes to community. No to Keystone XL. Yes to clean water, clean soil, and breathable air. Yes to an economic system that sustains our precious environment. Yes to life.

Keystone XL Pipeline Protest: