On the rainy morning of Friday October 14th I made my way to UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center to gather with Bay Area leaders to participate in the Climate Forward Bay Area Leadership Forum. This forum was organized through the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and brought together technology, government, NGO and industry leaders in a forum to share ideas and approaches to reducing local greenhouse gases while maintaining economic viability.
Friday’s agenda started off with an array of speakers including UC Berkeley’s own Julian Pelzner, a second year student studying Environmental Economics and Policy. Attendees were able to hear directly from students and community organizers about what issues matter to them most and their hopes for the future in the Bay Area.
After opening remarks, we heard from a panel focusing on Technology and Energy, Water, and Waste Plenary. Panelists included representatives from both public and private sectors moderated by David Baker from the San Francisco Chronicle. Some pertinent topics for discussion included the current drought crisis, technology, and suggestions of what the average person can do to make a difference. Several panelists advocated for “PACE”, a program hoping to build the clean green economy, which they presented as a way to democratize clean energy. Interesting questions were raised to the panel, including: when will California policy start aggressively addressing the drought? Some called for protocol to mirror California’s energy codes making it a mandate to reduce water use. Others suggested that it is up to individual communities to become more resilient and robust in terms of water accessibility. When asked how to respond to climate change, panelists suggested that we are already facing the inevitable consequences of climate change, therefore it is pertinent to take an adaptions focus over a mitigation approach. They recognized that both adaption and mitigation efforts must be made simultaneously but emphasized the immediate adaptation necessities in the Bay Area and those financial implications.
The forum concluded with an inspirational Key Note speech from Van Jones. Van Jones is a CNN political commentator, author, and founder of Dream Corps, Rebuild The Dream, Green For All, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change. He has written two New York Timesbest-selling books, The Green Collar Economy and Rebuild the Dream. His second book chronicles his journey as an environmental and human rights activist to becoming a White House policy advisor. His speech left the audience inspired as he delved into the importance of “equity” when considering environmental planning and climate change. He suggests that the word is often thrown around, but without policy makers actually deconstructing the term and implications we are not making any tangible progress. Jones left the audience with a sentiment of the power of equity and having candid conversations about the hope for a more sustainable future.
It was a great honor to be able to attend a forum with influential climate change leaders in the Bay Area. I hope Bay Area residents not in attendance are able to recognize the severity of and pertinence of the effects of climate change, especially on our water systems. Moving forward, I am confident that Climate Forward Bay Area: A Leadership Forum was able to instill values of continued innovation, hard work, and hope towards a more resilient Bay Area, California, and Planet Earth.
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