Cities are at the epicenter of climate change, responsible for as much as 80 percent of heat-trapping emissions and enduring the brunt of climate change’s effects. Unlike the polarized debate on climate change at the national level, American mayors are calling for carbon-pollution reductions and increased resiliency efforts to avoid the potential catastrophic effects of climate change. Now, a new effort in Los Angeles, California, is attempting to go a step further with a breakout plan for both the city and region to address climate change.
Climate mitigation and resiliency efforts at the city level have been building in recent years. In 2005, mayors of some of the world’s largest cities banded together to form the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, or C40, in order to work together to cut emissions and address climate risks. In 2009, the World Bank realigned its strategy for working with cities to ensure that climate change is being adequately considered and addressed. In 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation launched its 100 Resilient Cities initiative to help cities around the world build the capacity they need to address the “shocks and the stresses” they face on a routine basis, including challenges that are climate related. Even the United Nations has brought focus to the city-climate connection. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointedC40 Chairman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) as special envoy for cities and climate change. Joint initiatives are working to bring this important work together and to the forefront of climate change policy. For instance, the Knowledge Centre on Cities and Climate Change, or K4C, provides a mechanism for the sharing of information and experience among cities throughout the world.
The University of California, Los Angeles, or UCLA, has launched “Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles,” an ambitious project to turn the page on Los Angeles’ history of air pollution, troubled transportation systems, loss of wildlife habitat, and unsustainable water and electricity demands. In fact, the project’s goal is to make America’s second-most-populous city the most sustainable city in the country. To that end, UCLA has committed to developing a comprehensive plan for the L.A. region to achieve self-sufficiency in energy production and water use and sourcing with no loss of native biodiversity, by 2050. The plan will identify and develop ways to obtain 100 percent of the region’s energy from renewable sources and 100 percent of its water from local sources. The university has adopted this project as one of its “Grand Challenges,” defined by the White House as “ambitious yet achievable goals to solve society’s biggest issues.” UCLA will harness its substantial research and innovation capabilities, with more than 140 researchers from 30 university institutes and research centers and two dozen departments committed to contributing. The project will also solicit problem-solving tactics from regional stakeholders and decision makers, such as innovative business leaders and the numerous governmental entities with jurisdiction over urban planning, land, air, and water. UCLA will unveil its findings and recommendations by 2019.By developing a plan with a 37-year vision, UCLA is addressing one of the biggest challenges policymakers face: how to deal with the exigencies of today while thinking about the long-term needs of tomorrow. This monumental collaboration has the potential to transform the region, make a major contribution to efforts to cut greenhouse gas pollution, and inspire the world.
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