LA Is Proposing Its Own Green New Deal — And It Involves A Lot Of Zeros

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti released ambitious new environmental goals for the city Monday, something he and others are calling L.A.'s own Green New Deal.

There are a lot of zeros in the plan: a zero-emission bus and train network with plenty of new community car charging stations. And zero-carbon buildings, that is, new buildings would all be powered and cooled without using fossil fuels like gas. Even zero waste sent to landfills by 2050.

The plan calls for a carbon free power grid as well. The city now uses a combination of energy sources, including coal and natural gas. Those sources would be narrowed down to zero emission and 100 percent renewable sources of energy by 2045, primarily solar, wind and hydro-electric.

The proposal also calls for the creation of as many as 300,000 new jobs to build and support these cleaner forms of energy.

WHAT'S IN GARCETTI'S PLAN?

Zero carbon - A mandate for all new buildings to be zero-carbon buildings. Garcetti said that would ensure that every skyscraper, commercial development, home and municipal office will be emissions-free by 2050.

Zero emissions - A zero emissions transportation network. That means adding charging stations to neighborhoods where people might not have access to charge electric vehicles from their homes. Garcetti said that would give Angelenos more options to use public transit, bikes, scooters, car shares and buses, and even avoid owning a car altogether.

Carbon-free electricity - L.A. will build a zero-carbon electricity grid. The new goals are to reach 80% clean energy by 2036 and 100% renewable energy by 2045.

Zero waste - The city would ban plastic straws, styrofoam and single-use takeout containers by 2028 — when the world comes to L.A. for the Olympic Games. By 2050 Garcetti said Angelenos would send no trash at all to landfills.

Recycled wastewater - L.A. will recycle 100% of our wastewater by 2035. That water could make up 70% of the city's overall water supply.

WHAT ABOUT THE MAYOR'S 2015 SUSTAINABLE CITY PLAN?

The city adopted Garcetti's Sustainable City plan in 2015 with goals targeting "the most aggressive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in our history."

But now, the mayor says those 2015 targets appear too timid, so he's calling for this ambitious update. On top of the new environmental goals, Garcetti wants to pair them with extensive new employment targets - as many as 300,000 new jobs, which he said is nearly 10 times the number of jobs the 2015 plan produced.

One way Garcetti's plan would combat climate change: Increase the shade canopy in residential areas by 50 percent by planting some 90,000 trees.

Low-income communities most affected by political decisions that placed them in the midst of more pollution will be first in line for that effort, as well as for solar panels and cooler pavements, the mayor said.

WAIT, DIDN'T THE CITY COUNCIL ALREADY CALL FOR A GREEN NEW DEAL?

Inspired by the push for a federal Green New Deal in Congress that would reduce emissions while stimulating the economy, the City Council in February called for the creation of a similar initiative for L.A. But the council's plan is a general outline of goals. Garcetti's 50-page plan goes into more detail.

Just as the construction of Hoover Dam created both an important hydroelectric power plant and provided thousands of jobs during the Great Depression, both the council's and the mayor's Green New Deal plans are designed to improve the environment while contributing to the area's economic well-being.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING NOW?

When the Trump Administration announced it was leaving the Paris Climate Agreement, Garcetti and many other mayors around the country said they would continue to pursue its goals.

"There's no greater threat to our national security, our economic growth ... our cities, our world and future generations" than climate change, Garcetti said. "Obviously we don't need more studies that show us the reality about climate change. We just have to look out the window."

Sea level rise, increasing temperatures and extreme weather causing more violent storms, droughts and wildfires need urgent solutions to preserve the livability of the city, he said.

"Who cares about potholes if Venice is under water," Garcetti said. "If Los Angeles is overwhelmed with hundreds of thousands of climate refugees I don't think we'll be too worried about planning the 2028 Olympics."

WHAT'S GARCETTI'S ROAD MAP TO BECOME CARBON NEUTRAL BY 2050?

The mayor wants to set up a "jobs cabinet" to guide the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs related to achieving climate goals. He said he also wants to form a Climate Emergency Commission "to harness the expertise of scientists and communities to guide our policymaking."

Under Garcetti's plan, by 2021 the city would need to adopt a decarbonization plan, starting with requiring all new buildings owned by the city to be all-electric.

The city would commit to buying all electric buses by 2025. The Port of Los Angeles, which is one of the largest sources of air pollution in the L.A. basin, would have 100% zero emissions cargo handling equipment by 2030, Garcetti said.

The city has already made significant progress in shrinking its carbon footprint. L.A. reduced the carbon emissions from its city operations by 40% over the decade ending in 2017, according to a report from the city Sanitation Bureau. A full 95% of the emissions savings was from power generation after the city reduced the amount of coal it uses to generate power, and turned to more solar and wind energy.

The city had set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 35% from a 2008 baseline by 2025, but it beat that goal, hitting a 40% reduction in 2017, according to the Sanitation Bureau's report. Garcetti is setting a more ambitious goal of getting to 55% under the 2008 baseline by 2025.

TWENTY YEARS TOO LATE?

The mayor's office cited support for his Green New Deal from several local environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the L.A. Clean Energy Coalition, GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles and Communities for a Better Environment.

It also quoted Mary Leslie, president of the Los Angeles Business Council, applauding Garcetti for "taking bold action to accelerate the city's goal, attracting new investment and doubling the clean energy jobs over the next 15 years."

The mayor's plan is too timid for at least two environmental groups.

The L.A. chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a self-described coalition of young people dedicated to promoting the Green New Deal proposed in Congress, issued a statement saying Garcetti's plan is not ambitious enough.

"With Mayor Garcetti's current plan for net-zero emissions by 2050, Los Angeles is on track to be twenty years too late," it said. "By the year 2030, we will have reached a point of no return  —  where feedback loops driven by carbon emissions will have propelled beyond our control."

Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Alexandra Nagy agreed. "Climate science [shows] we need to transition by 2030," she said in a statement.

In a related development, a coalition of environmental and other groups issued a call for other California cities and counties "to take robust action to accelerate the transition to zero-emissions homes and buildings."

The Building Decarbonization Coalition said local action will help the state government achieve its goal of having California's entire conomy be carbon neutral by 2045.

EXPLORE THE FULL PLAN BELOW:

UPDATES:

11:15 a.m.: This article was updated with more information from the mayor's plan and background on previous sustainability plan.

3:15 p.m.: This article was updated with information about other groups' supporting the mayor's plan and with information from the Building Decarbonization Coalition.

5:15 p.m.: This article was updated with the reaction from Food & Water Watch.

This article was originally published at 9:35 a.m.

This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.