This Earth Day, more than one billion people around the world will unite to celebrate the beauty of our world and continue to advocate for its protection. From climate change to plastic pollution, our natural spaces and species are at risk of great harm. Despite the abundance of “doom-and-gloom narratives,” we must remember that it is not too late to save our planet. We still have time to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Earlier this month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on what needs to be done to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Amid dramatic headlines, many have undersold what should be the report’s most critical finding: “We have options in all sectors to at least halve emissions by 2030.”
Take transportation in California. Nearly every day, we rely on petroleum-powered cars and trucks to get us to where we need to go. On a larger scale, this has turned transportation into our largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. California’s transportation sector accounts for just over 50% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, about 80% of nitrogen oxide pollution and 90% of diesel particulate matter pollution. While it’s not good that we’re putting so much carbon into the atmosphere to get around, by that same token, that also means that making changes to our transportation system presents an enormous opportunity to phase out fossil fuels and slow down global warming.
The new IPCC report offers a number of common-sense steps to end our dependence on fossil fuel-powered transportation. We need to make it easier for people to adopt electric vehicles, electrify public fleets and build out walking, biking and public transportation infrastructure.
Thankfully, there are local governments across the state preparing their communities for a zero-emission transportation future. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles City Council voted to strengthen the city’s pathway to a zero-emission transportation sector. The motion will require that the city’s vehicle fleet transitions from fossil fuel-powered vehicles to electric.
Accompanying the increase in electric vehicles, the motion requires that the city identifies potential locations for installing new public and private electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. When choosing where to install EV chargers, the city must consider buildings already using solar energy or planning to adopt solar energy. This consideration will help ensure that a larger fraction of the city’s EV charging stations are powered by clean, renewable energy sources like solar. Altogether, these actions will accelerate the city’s transition away from dirty fossil fuel dependence and towards a greener, cleaner future.
But there is still so much more that Los Angeles can do to go big on zero-emission transportation. The city can accelerate the installation of EV charging stations by complying with state laws (AB 1236 and AB 970) that require cities and counties across the state to streamline EV charging station permitting. Local agencies can work with electric utilities to develop EV charging infrastructure programs and design EV-friendly electricity rates. The city can invest in electric bicycle programs and bicycle infrastructure.
Doing these things won’t only reduce climate emissions, they’ll also improve our lives. We’ll be able to spend less on gas, reduce air and noise pollution and create healthier, safer and more pleasant communities to live in.
No doubt, climate change is an enormous challenge, but the latest IPCC report reminds us that we not only have the tools to prevent the worst of climate change, but we also have the opportunity right now to build a better, healthier world for ourselves and our children in our local community while changing the trajectory for planetary warming. Let’s get to work!