By Allison Paisner, May 2015
On April 8, 2015, Mayor Eric Garcetti released L.A.’s first-ever Sustainable City pLAn.
In response to the effects of global climate change, experienced
locally in the form of unprecedented drought and increasing frequency of
extreme weather events, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the
city’s first sustainability plan earlier this April, the Sustainable City pLAn.
Garcetti’s initiative is preceded by the assignment of Matt Petersen as
the city’s first Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), following the
Mayor’s appointment to President Obama’s task Force on Climate
Preparedness and Resilience in 2013.
Second to NYC as the most populous city in the US, with 3.8 million
residents, Los Angeles is one of the last big cities to adopt a
sustainability plan. Throughout the development process and creation of
the pLAn came advice from other US Mayor’s offices, including San
Francisco, Philadelphia, and Boston – comparably populous cities with
well-developed sustainability or climate action plans of their own.
Already a national leader in solar power, energy storage and water
conservation, this initiative will transform LA and establish the city
as leader in crosscutting sustainability issue areas over the next 20
years. According to the mayor’s office, Los Angeles aims to develop a
more comprehensive climate action and adaptation plan by 2017 and to be
the first big city to achieve zero-waste by 2025.
Advertised as more than just an environmental vision, the pLAn also
encompasses sustainability pillars of economy and equity for a more
holistic approach. Incorporating sustainability into each of the city’s
35 departments and bureaus, one of the administration’s first action
steps will be to appoint 18 departmental CSO’s.
Included are achievable targets across 14 topic areas,
for each of which the plan provides an introduction, vision, highlights
of goal outcomes, as well as a section that boasts LA’s accomplishments
as a leader in the field.
Nestled under the environmental section entitled “Carbon &
Climate Leadership” are the city’s short- and long-term emission
reductions targets. The goal? To reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
below the 1990 baseline by at least 45 percent by 2025, 60 percent by
2035, and 80 percent by 2050.
With a baseline of 54.1 MMtCO2e, an 80
percent reduction correlates to 10.82 MMtCO2e in 2050.
A comparison of LA’s GHG percentage emissions reductions targets to
other leading US cities is included below. The chart also reports the
year each city’s initial sustainability or climate action plan was
released. It is important to note that percentage reductions are
proportionally comparable but correlate to different absolute value
baseline GHG emission levels.
Municipally, the city intends to lead by example. This translates
into GHG emissions reductions of city operations by 35 percent (2025)
and 55 percent (2035) below the 2008 baseline of 772,696 MMtCO2e. As the
most significant driver of climate change since the Industrial
Revolution, a reduction in GHG emissions will help mitigate the effects
of global warming.
Another highlight of the plan that will help track the city’s
progress is the commitment to develop an annual standardized GHG
inventory by 2017. The pLAn website already includes a useful dashboard of sustainability metrics to measure progress to-date.
Extending beyond just the city of Los Angeles, however, is the pLAn’s
2017 short-term goal to recruit and “lead mayors of the United States’
largest cities to sign on to the Mayors’ National Climate Action
Agreement (MNCAA).” Announced in September 2014 by Mayors Eric Garcetti,
Annise Parker of Houston and Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, the MCNAA
focuses on local efforts to reduce GHG emissions. One hopes that the
passage of yet another city sustainability plan will encourage other
cities to follow suit and broaden the network of local efforts to
promote sustainability and combat climate change.