On Earth Day, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared at a news conference to tout the city’s Green New Deal and explain newly passed legislation that will reduce carbon emissions from the city’s largest buildings. Now, the mayor of Los Angeles, the country’s second largest city, has followed suit with an updated plan to cut carbon emissions there.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Sustainability Plan 2019 sets a number of new objectives and expands on the city’s original sustainability plan from 2015. It calls for more electric vehicles, more electricity from renewable sources, and less driving by Angelenos to reduce tailpipe emissions and the city’s trademark traffic jams.
The backdrop for the mayor’s updated plan are increasingly dire warnings from climate scientists about the consequences of doing too little to curb carbon emissions. Garcetti said the city has succeeded in trimming greenhouse gas emissions in the last four years, but the effort isn’t enough.
“It’s time to think bigger,” he writes in the introduction to the new plan. “The scale of our ambitions must meet the magnitude of this crisis.”
The updated plan, like the effort in New York City, is LA’s take on the Green New Deal, a set of national environmental policy objectives popularized by activists including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat. With little enthusiasm at the federal level for new policies that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions nationally, lawmakers at the state and local level seem to be taking up the slack.
Less driving in a city that loves cars
Los Angeles is famous for its packed freeways, but the new plan sees less driving and more walking and bicycling in the years ahead. It proposes a reduction in the number of vehicle miles traveled by 13% or more by 2025, 39% by 2035, and 45% by 2050.
The reductions would see average driving distances for Angelenos, now 15 miles per day, decline to 13 miles a day by 2025 and 9 miles by 2035, The Times said.
The percentage of electric or zero-emission vehicles would climb from 1.4% last year to 25% by 2025, and 80% by 2035. The goal is to hit 100% by 2050.
Other goals on the transportation front include electrifying 10% of the taxi fleet by 2022 and 100% by 2028; switch to all zero-emissions school buses by 2028; and the installation of 28,000 publicly available electric vehicle charging stations by 2028.
Goals for housing
The sustainability plan calls for the sharpest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the building sector, with greenhouse gas emissions falling by an additional 112 million tons over the 2015 plan — representing the energy needed to power 13.4 million homes for a year.
Targets are to have all new buildings at net-zero carbon by 2030, and all buildings net zero carbon by 2050. Energy use per square foot for all building types would go down by 22% by 2025, and 44% by 2050.
The steps that will be necessary for reaching those goals include completion of a study on how to electrify buildings by 2021, improving access to financing for building owners, and investing $100 million in energy efficiency programs for renters and people who live in affordable housing.
The plan also proposes that 57% of new housing be built within 1,500 feet of mass transit by 2025, and 75% by 2035.
Political challenges ahead
Even while describing the urgency of reducing carbon emissions, Garcetti said that meeting the goals in the new sustainability plan will be “messy and difficult” politically, The Times said.
Garcetti already has been challenged by the labor union representing workers at the Department of Water and Power who were upset over his decision not to rebuild three natural gas generating plants on California’s coast. That project that would have been worth $5 billion.
He also admitted that getting Los Angeles drivers to spend less time behind the wheel might be harder than it sounds. He joked that city residents “like the way they suffer in their single-passenger, stuck-in-traffic, gas-guzzling cars.”
But he also pointed to new jobs the sustainability plan would create: an estimated 300,000 new green jobs by 2035. In fact, each chapter in the new plan lists the number of new jobs that would result from the new targets along with health and environmental benefits of the changes.