UC President Janet Napolitano talks UC’s role in addressing climate change at global summit

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UC President Janet Napolitano discussed the University of California’s efforts to address climate change at the Global Climate Action Summit last week.

Starting Wednesday, Sept. 12, and ending Friday, Sept. 14, the summit was held in San Francisco with the purpose of bringing people together from around the world to celebrate achievements and establish a deeper commitment to action regarding climate change. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, astronaut Mae Jemison and actor Alec Baldwin were among other major speakers at the event.

Napolitano had two main speaking engagements at events affiliated with the Global Climate Action Summit. At the Science to Action event, Napolitano addressed an audience of about 250 scientists, policymakers and advocates in a keynote about the UC’s efforts to address climate change through research and pioneering sustainability measures on campus, according to UC Office of the President, or UCOP, spokesperson Danielle Smith.

“We will endeavor to share our knowledge and solutions with the world and to engage in the kind of science and research that can help us turn the tide on climate change,” Napolitano said in her speech.

In her second speech, Napolitano spoke to an audience of approximately 300 leaders at the We are Still In Forum about the critical role universities play in the fight against climate change, according to Smith. Napolitano also announced at the forum the addition of new universities to the University Climate Change Coalition, or UC3, and the publication of UC3’s first progress report.

“The task of addressing climate change and reducing our carbon footprint is a moral imperative,” Napolitano said in her speech at the forum. “There is no more time to dally. We are out of time for debates. Now is a time for action.”

At the event, the city of Berkeley publicly announced its goal to reach 100 percent renewable electricity citywide by 2035 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In a press release, Mayor Jesse Arreguín said climate change poses a “serious threat to our residents, environment, infrastructure and quality of life,” adding that the city’s commitments are aimed at working toward a “carbon-free future.”

According to Daniel Kammen, professor of energy and chair of the campus Energy and Resource Group, a major high point of the Global Climate Action Summit was when private sector companies stated that they would make meaningful commitments to low-carbon energy. Kammen mentioned that this would lead to a “much bigger commitment to public transportation” by powering buses, Lyfts and Ubers with clean energy.

“This will affect transportation and a number of services that students and faculty use every day,” Kammen said.

Kammen said a group of human rights and environmental rights activists were seen protesting in front of the summit, citing concerns that actions to address climate change are not happening quickly enough.

“(The activists) fear that even with all these actions, we’re still moving too slowly — and they’re right,” Kammen said. “What needs to happen is we need to elect public officials who will make the U.S. a clean energy leader again because California can’t do it alone.”

Contact Shelby Mayes at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shelbymayesdc.