Editors’ Note: Hazel Kyle is a member of the Climate Coalition.

Students waved cardboard signs, chanted, and sang in unison outside the UC Santa Cruz Hay Barn doors on Oct. 19. They were gathering at a reception for UC Chancellors and the Chief Financial Officer and Faculty of the Global Climate Leadership Council. 

The rallying students of the Climate Coalition have clear demands: UCSC’s official commitment to the 2030 deadline outlined in the Decarbonization & Electrification Plan. The plan was released Oct. 17, and changes the UC-wide decarbonization deadline from 2045 to 2035. 

Tahoe Roe, member of the Climate Coalition and organizer of the Oct. 19 protest, said that decarbonization by 2030 is what science demands, what falls in line with the Paris Accord, and what the people want. 

“I want to have a future,” Roe said. “The depressing part is we’ve become so accustomed to almost giving up on it, but I don’t believe now is the time to give up. I believe we are close. We’re so close to tearing this all down and getting rid of fossil fuels for good.”  

The 2015 Paris Agreement states that to limit global warming to 1.5°C within the century, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 and decline 43 percent by 2030. If we cross the 1.5°C threshold, we risk unleashing far more severe impacts of the climate crisis. 

Photos by JM Hernandez / Climate Coalition Outside the Haybarn 

Ellen Vaughan, UCSC Water and Climate Action Manager and member of the Decarbonization and Electrification Task Force, described the Global Climate Leadership Council. 

“They’re smart people trying to find a solution,” she said. “All interested in the nuances and complexity of this challenge.” 

If enforced, the Task Force’s Decarbonization and Electrification Plan for UCSC will reduce 95 percent of emissions by 2030. It outlines the specific paths for UCSC to shut down the cogeneration plant and transition to the power grid, which is 93 percent renewable in Santa Cruz. It also plans more avenues for UC-owned and operated renewables, such as the recently purchased 85 megawatt wind farm in New Mexico.  

“The technology for decarbonization and electrification is out there, it’s only a matter of assessing our geography, topography, specific electrical infrastructure and applying the technology,” Vaughan said. 

Jason Samaha, Climate Coalition representative on the Decarbonization and Electrification Task Force and assistant professor of psychology, said, “There are great people in that room who want what we want but they need the backing and support from UC Office of the President, from the Regents, from the Chief Financial Officer and from our elected state officials.”

The UC Office of the President set the 2045 in the UC Policy for Sustainable Practices, released this year. The UCSC Climate Coalition advocates moving this date to 2035, which is popular among 85 percent of voting faculty polled in 2022. 

Chancellor Cynthia Larive, among other administrators, came out to listen to the rallying activists and address Climate Coalition Protestors.

“It’s better to set an ambitious goal and miss it than to set an ‘achievable goal’ and miss it,” said Larive in a meeting before the reception. “[However,] in addition to funding, the success [of a 2030 decarb date] depends on the additional transmission lines from PG&E, which is outside of UCSC’s control.”

Climate Coalition representative Nicole MacGaffey was invited to sit through the reception. While she was heartened by the encouragement and shout-outs from speakers, she could not confirm if UCSC had officially committed to the 2030 deadline. 

“They said that it is due to student voices like ours pushing them to be ambitious that they are shooting for 2030 and making decarbonization plans in the first place,” she wrote to the Climate Coalition after the reception. 

The UC Global Climate Leadership Council co-chaired by UC Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom was in attendance and within earshot of the rally outside of the Haybarn. 

With our future in their hands, let’s hope they are listening. 

Join the Climate Coalition at the Second Annual Climate Conference Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Rachel Carson College. Or submit your own art or research papers to be shown at the conference!