SACRAMENTO, CA — With world leaders returning home following the close of the UN Climate Change Conference COP28, California’s environmental justice and climate advocates reflect on the ever-present threat of oil industry misinformation, the growing international consensus around the need for a full fossil fuel phaseout, and California’s opportunity to lead the world with real climate solutions centered on environmental justice. 


The final agreement at the climate summit mentioned the need to transition away from fossil fuels but fell short of calling for an unequivocal and full phaseout of oil, gas and coal. California’s role as a powerful state shows what’s possible if a major oil producer takes on the fossil fuel industry. 


To mark the start of the conference, Greenpeace USA pulled off a dramatic, first-of-its-kind takeover of the Hollywood Sign, projecting images of oil and extreme weather across the iconic sign on November 28. The visual statement demanded U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders deliver real climate action at the climate summit. A video of the action highlights the powerful message from Governor Newsom at the UN Climate Ambition Summit in September: “This climate crisis is a fossil fuels crisis.” 


Though Governor Newsom did not attend the climate conference in Dubai, California Attorney General Rob Bonta headlined a COP28 side event on December 2 and detailed the state’s groundbreaking lawsuit filed against five of the world’s largest oil companies and the trade group American Petroleum Institute. He spoke about the efforts under the leadership of Gov. Newsom to hold oil companies accountable for climate and public health harms as they work to dismantle the web of deceit spun by the oil industry. “It will make your blood boil when you see what the fossil fuel industry did,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta of the industry’s climate change coverup. “They created industry-commissioned studies and front groups,” he added. “They have lied; they have falsely misled.”


Several groups with Last Chance Alliance and many of California’s frontline community leaders held side events calling for commitments to phase out fossil fuels. The Climate Center brought together CA State Senator Monique Limón, a lead coauthor of the historic oil and gas setbacks bill SB 1137, and Chair of the California Air Resources Board Liane Randolph, for a panel discussion about California’s leadership on supply-side solutions, like a slow down in drilling permits and a ban on fracking set to go into effect next month. Speakers also explored what is still needed to launch a comprehensive fossil fuel phaseout in the state, including health-protective oil drilling setbacks to protect frontline communities that CA voters will have the chance to defend on next November’s ballot.


Some encouraging steps were taken, such as commitments to cut methane across a number of countries including the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s methane rule, which targets new and— for the first time— existing sources of methane emissions from oil and gas production, is a welcome step forward. However, these measures continue to address the symptom, not the source, and lack significance without also committing to a full fossil fuel phaseout. 


In California, the onus is on the state oil and gas regulator, CalGEM, to massively scale up monitoring and inspections and to hold oil companies accountable for the plugging and full clean-up of wells. A recent report from the Sierra Club, “The $23 Billion Question: What Created California’s Idle Well Crisis and How to Solve It,” revealed that 41,568 oil wells currently sit orphan or idle across the state, leaking methane and volatile organic compounds into the air, water, and soil in our communities. These wells are overwhelmingly located in rural and predominantly Latino counties with household incomes that are far lower than the state average. State law allows oil wells to sit idle for years or even decades, and over one-third of the state’s wells have sat idle for eight or more years.


“Our report finds that Chevron, Aera Energy, and California Resources Corporation have created a crisis of inactive oil wells in California. The least they can do is foot the bill for the mess they created,” said Jasmine Vazin, Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Senior Campaign Strategist and author of the new report. “The global profits of these corporations can more than cover the costs to clean up their legacy of pollution in California. State policy change is needed to protect our communities and taxpayers by forcing these companies to promptly plug these wells.”


Advocates with Last Chance Alliance offered the following quotes on  COP28:


“Thousands of people arrived in Dubai last week with hopes of securing a meaningful commitment to end the fossil fuel era,” said Barry Vesser, Chief Operating Officer for The Climate Center, who was on the ground in Dubai. “Thanks to the thousands of oil and gas representatives that swarmed COP28, that didn’t happen. On the heels of another disappointing COP, the world desperately needs climate leaders like California to step up. We must set an example by kicking polluters out of politics, rapidly phasing out fossil fuels, and transitioning to a clean energy economy for all. If we can do it in California — the fifth-largest economy in the world and still a major oil and gas producer — we can do it anywhere.”


“COP28 was a relentless ploy by fossil fuel lobbyists to undermine climate protections, geared towards safeguarding the interests of elites, perpetuating white supremacy, and enabling corporate dominance, all at the expense of frontline communities,” said Matt Nelson, Executive Director of “Migrant and Latine communities, targeted daily by Big Oil, demand an end to the industry’s harm and deception. Displacement of our communities worldwide, and the escalating health consequences endured near fossil fuel extraction further compounds these injustices. Climate justice is not a choice — it is a necessary path forward — one that our elected leaders must embrace to secure a safe, healthy, and livable future for all.”


“At COP28, people power secured the first global agreement calling on all countries to transition away from fossil fuels, sending an unprecedented signal to the fossil fuel industry that its days are numbered. The final outcome does not deliver the full, fast, fair, funded phaseout of fossil fuels we need and is disturbingly littered with loopholes and escape hatches for the fossil fuel industry, but the signal coming out of the talks is unmistakable,” said Collin Rees, United States Campaigns Manager at Oil Change International. “California’s opportunity for bold, international leadership is clear: Governor Newsom must stop all new oil and gas permits and accelerate the phaseout of existing extraction while doubling down on reducing the state’s fossil fuel consumption and investing in a just transition.” 


“Fossil fuels are responsible for the climate crisis, the biggest health threat we have ever faced. Fossil fuels are also responsible for rampaging air pollution, creating a public health crisis particularly in overburdened communities such as nearly 3 million Californians living within half a mile of a well. While the COP 28 global pact did mention ‘transition away from fossil fuels’, the final text does not meet the urgency of the public health crisis caused by fossil fuels and allows for loopholes such as Carbon Capture and Sequestration to justify expansion of new fossil fuel projects.” Marjaneh Moini, MD, San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility Board Member said. “California, as the fifth largest economy in the world, must set an example by stopping drilling and developing new wells, phasing out existing wells and rejecting unproven technologies such as Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). CCS creates public health hazards every step of the way, from increasing air pollution in overburdened communities to exposing the public to potential health threat of CO2 pipeline rupture and CO2 reservoir leakage, and has no place in a public health centered climate plan.” 


“COP28 was the most blatant act of greenwashing in more than 50 years of fossil fuel disinformation campaigns, but it’s backfired on oil producers,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “For the first time the need to phase out fossil fuels dominated the international climate talks and there’s now a commitment to transition away from them, but it included enormous loopholes that jeopardize the survival of life on Earth. The momentum from COP28 underscores the need for California to end deadly oil production and make polluters pay for the damage they’ve done. The fate of our planet hangs in the balance.”


“The fossil fuel industry’s massive presence (2,500 representatives) at COP 28 suggests a desperate rear-guard attempt by this doomed industry to protect itself and its profits from policies and lawsuits intended to sunset the fossil fuel era,” said Glenn Fieldman, Fossil Free California. “We are proud of California’s leadership in these efforts and intend to ramp up the pressure by winning legislation in 2024 to divest our public pensions of billions in fossil fuel investments, by stopping the oil industry from drilling in our neighborhoods, and by charting a course for the climate-safe future our workers, families, youth, and retirees deserve.”


Said Chirag Bhakta, California Director, Food & Water Watch, “As the world’s largest historic emitter of fossil fuel pollution, the United States has a critical responsibility to lead the global transition to clean energy, and California can play a major role in that transition. Unfortunately, COP 28 was headed by a fossil fuel baron and thus the multinational agreement coming out of COP 28 amounts to very little in terms of actually addressing the existential crisis of global climate change. To take the climate crisis seriously, Governor Newsom and President Biden must step up now and act, particularly by halting oil and gas exports and rapidly curtailing drilling and fracking on public lands, immediately initiating an aggressive transition off oil and gas and onto clean, renewable solar and wind energy, and rejecting the false solutions being hyped by fossil fuel companies, including faulty ‘carbon capture’ schemes, that would allow polluters to keep on polluting with impunity.”



We acknowledge that Sacramento is the traditional home of the Maidu, Miwok and Nisenan people and Hollywood is the ancestral homeland of the Tongva. Part of our commitment to decolonizing ourselves, our language, and our organizations is a commitment to learning and better understanding the history of Indigenous Peoples of so-called California, including the history of contact, colonization and the extraction of resources from Indigenous lands which has been part of the continuation of modern colonization.