LA is looking to a zero-emissions future: Could other cities do the same?

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LA has recently committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — one of the most aggressive plans we’ve seen when it comes to environmental efforts. Getting serious about tackling pollution has been one of California’s top priorities for years, but can these new goals finally bring about a greener tomorrow?

What Does This Mean?

By 2050, Los Angeles plans to run solely on clean, renewable energy. This is no easy task, as this goal requires changes not only from individuals but from the buildings where we work, shop, and eat. The City of Angels isn’t the only one aiming to reach this goal — Tokyo, Mexico City, and Accra have pledged to become carbon neutral as well. 

If other cities are taking a pledge, then why are we focusing on the big CA? Well, California supports the world’s fifth largest economy. With a booming economy comes more people, which means more commuters, more cars, more buildings, more housing, more everything — including pollution. Which leads us to the second reason we’re focusing on California: cars. 

The Golden State contains 8 of the highest polluting cities in America, and LA claims the title of the most congested city in the world. LA drivers spent 104 hours traveling during peak travel times alone last year, according to a recent study. Transportation makes up 40% of the state’s emissions, which is why this is going to be a tough area for California to tackle in regards to its goal to decarbonize its electricity by 2045. 

What’s the Plan?

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California has actually been working on its green initiatives before these new ambitions came to fruition. A goal to lower greenhouse gas emissions even lower than what the levels were in 1990 was reached in 2016 — 4 years earlier than its deadline of 2020, proving that a dense economy can implement greener practices.

Unfortunately, a study found that while the state beat its milestone of 33% of electricity coming from renewable sources (it already hit 46% in 2016), transportation emissions still increased. So Cali’s government added more milestones to the overarching 2050 goal — having 1.5 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the streets by 2025, and more than 4.2 million by 2030. Part of this goal’s success is in the hands of the consumer. Will people hop on the electric train or not?

California actually leads the nation in EV purchases through incentives and effective public policy changes. Other states have started to follow in their footsteps through the Electrification Coalition that helps enact public policy to reduce (and eventually remove) vehicles running on crude oil and replace them with electric ones.

What Does the Future Look Like?

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Cars aren’t the only plan for going electric! Buses will be LA’s claim to electric fame as they plan to bring on fleets of double-deckers and swap out any non-electric buses by 2030. Even IKEA is chipping in to expedite its goal of zero emissions home deliveries by 2020 (also being done in New York, Paris, Shanghai, and Amsterdam).

We have to keep in mind that these are merely some of our first steps, so we don’t really have the answer yet. Yes, people all over the world have been trying to go green for years, but hitting pollution where it hurts is getting a hold on transportation. In order to make a difference, we’ll have to make institutional changes like LA’s plans for electric buses. The West Coast can inspire through action, showing how we can make improvements one step at a time.

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