The terms “green” and “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” seem to get tossed around pretty often these days. They are a great way to market products to people who are genuinely interested in preserving the world for a better tomorrow. But what happens when you’re talking about sustainability on a larger platform? A much larger platform like an entire city?
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considering a broad sustainability plan to help the sprawling urban oasis become a much more eco-friendly version of its current self. Think electric vehicles, more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly streets, and maybe even corners that are free from gas stations.
The plan includes 159 action items that would help transform Los Angeles in the decades to come. The primary focus is to abandon the city’s dependency on fossil fuels, which is one of the country’s most ambitious efforts on a regional level. Locals are calling the sustainability plan the “Green New Deal.”
Adds Gary Gero, the county’s chief sustainability officer, “We recognize the climate crisis and the need to act. This is going to be a lot of hard work.”
If enacted, the “Green New Deal” calls for Los Angeles County to be completely carbon neutral by 2050. This means that carbon emissions would be reduced to zero or offset completely by the county, but some think this timeline is too slow.
Climate change and global warming experts believe that the problem could become potentially devastating by 2030, with global warming reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by that time. But Gero believes that many parts of their plan could come together much sooner than the overall 2050 goal, and the more specific goal of powering all of the county’s unincorporated areas with renewable energy by 2025.
Some of the proposed ideas include eliminating parking requirements for new housing and installing bus-only lanes around the city and county. But even these kinds of changes will require a major shake-up in Los Angeles’ planning process, and some are already being met with pushback from drivers and people worried about residential overcrowding.
Gero is confident that the strategy will work, but knows they need to convince more LA residents to walk, bike or use public transportation when they are an option. The sustainability plan calls for a 50% spike in this kind of transportation by 2045, and residents would need to cut the number of miles they drive each day by more than half of their current levels to make it work.
He adds, “We’re going to have to have an open and honest dialogue about what the region needs. Some people are going to be resistant, but this kind of change is never easy.”
Other parts of the sustainability plan include eliminating petroleum operations and oil drilling and refining in the region. The petroleum industry is a large contributor to California’s economy, and phasing out fossil fuels will mean that many jobs need to be replaced by green energy providers. Gero says that one part of their plan calls for the creation of a “just transition” task force that would assist with job training and ensure that former petroleum workers are not left to fend for themselves as the area transitions to a greener way of life.
In order for the plan to be put into action, it will require a heavy lift in coordination between city, county and state agencies. This is because the Board of Supervisors has a limited scope over the 88 individual cities that make up LA County. Gero seems confident that sustainability goals will remain top of mind, as county department heads will be required to provide progress updates rather frequently.
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