Redistributive policy

Climate change groups push for more aggressive local policy

IRVINE, Calif. — Two youth action groups advocating for stronger environmental and climate policy demonstrated Friday, holding colorful signs at an Irvine intersection.

About 30 attendees stood on a lawn along the intersection of Culver Drive and Alton Parkway at 10 a.m., the first of two planned protests. One group, a local chapter of Fridays for the Future, hopes to influence politicians to increase climate aid to poorer countries. The other group, Reform and Sustain, had more specific local policies in mind.

What do you want to know

  • Around 30 protesters pushed for more aggressive climate change policies on Friday morning in Irvine
  • Led by two youth action groups, they lobbied for tougher city rules for new buildings that would ban gas lines in new construction.
  • One group, Fridays for the Future, said it was rebuilding its group of protesters after a sharp drop attributed to the pandemic
  • While Irvine has been more aggressive in creating and enforcing green policies than some other local towns, protesters fear the Irvine City Council is sticking to lofty goals like its plans to be neutral in carbon by 2030.

Ariane Jong-Levinger, co-founder of Reform and Sustain, said she wants the city of Irvine to stick to its lofty goals. Jong-Levinger pointed to a resolution the city committed to last year to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, an ambitious goal described as a moonshot.

“They haven’t done any meaningful work to achieve that,” Jong-Levinger said. She sits on one of the citizen-run committees the city has set up to solicit opinions and advice from engaged local actors.

Irvine has steadily accumulated policies and committees that are engaged in making green policy suggestions, but although city council members have appointed certain positions, none of them have decision-making power.

The city has also led an effort for a green energy consortium, known as the Orange County Power Authority, which would seek out green energy providers capable of selling businesses and residents affordable clean energy options.

The Electricity Authority, which was funded in its early days by Irvine dollars, has been criticized for its lack of dedicated climate change staff.

Jong-Levinger wants the city to hire dedicated climate staff and declare a climate emergency.

The two groups protesting on Friday are trying to incite high school and college students to protest with Fridays for the Future, encouraging them to strike out of school on the last day of each week. It’s in solidarity with the global movement’s founder, Greta Thunberg, who skipped class every Friday to protest climate change from 2018.

Johanna Speiser, who helped found the local Orange chapter in 2019 with her brothers, said Friday’s theme was reparations, which includes a redistribution of money and political decision-making.

“Often the countries that have contributed the least to the problem are the ones that are suffering the most,” Speiser said.

Speiser, a junior philosophy student at Chapman University, is primarily responsible for organizing her local chapter for climate strikes that follow the theme of her parent organization. The next steps for her organization, she said, are to continue to expand local communication with climate groups in the region. Those relationships, she said, will be important to the groups’ ongoing lobbying efforts and could include plans to attend city council meetings to increase pressure for change.

But Friday’s protests, Speiser said, are more about bringing attention to their cause and attracting more advocates.

“I think it’s important for every age group to get involved, but older generations have run countries and the climate has only gotten worse,” she said.

The group organized a second demonstration Friday at 4 p.m. in front of the town hall of Orange.