Los Angeles City-Owned Buildings to Go 100% Carbon Free
By Maria Stamas
Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti on Monday committed all new or substantially rehabilitated buildings owned by the City of Los Angeles to be 100 percent carbon free — and to use less carbon-intensive building materials in the process. His executive directive not only has Los Angeles leading by example on ways to reduce building emissions, it breaks new ground.
The announcement follows a growing trend of leading cities, such as Seattle, San Francisco and Pittsburgh, in committing new government building stock to be all-electric or become 100 percent emissions free.
Los Angeles also will become the first local government to adopt the state's Buy Clean California Act, requiring carbon emissions reductions from construction materials, including steel, flat glass and insulation beginning in 2021 for buildings such as fire stations, civic centers and libraries.
This executive directive is the latest step in L.A.'s sustainability efforts.
We also know that City Halls cannot tackle this work alone. Community engagement, both in policy development and implementation, will be essential to success. Housing, energy, workforce development and climate change are topics that involve every Angeleno in every community, and we must bring a diverse set of experiences and visions for the future to these policy discussions.
LA Becomes First CA City to Require Less Carbon in Construction Materials
Tackling the carbon emissions used in the materials for new construction — referred to as embodied carbon — is the next frontier of climate action and particularly important for cities. Without policy interventions, worldwide, new construction in cities will generate 100 gigatons of embodied carbon.
Los Angeles' new directive means the emissions performance of materials will be taken into account when an agency is contracting to buy steel, flat glass and mineral wool (insulation), as well as other products the city may add to the list for its buildings. Cement, as one of the most carbon-intensive of materials, would be a great one to look at next. Fortunately, the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance will soon be publishing a framework for cities to go further in this space.
LADWP to Prioritize Equitable Access to Clean Energy Programs
Among his many directives, Mayor Garcetti also committed the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to improve access to its clean energy programs specifically for low-income, affordable housing and multifamily properties. Los Angeles faces dual crises of housing affordability and growing climate change impacts, such as severe wildfires. Funding programs to provide energy efficiency and clean energy for these buildings while reducing utility cost burdens for renters will be a welcome relief.
LADWP has the potential to provide greater incentives to its rental housing customers, and so we expect this directive will accelerate progress toward fully programming the $100 million in energy efficiency funds for renters, which were approved by LADWP's Board in June of 2018.
Joining a New but Growing All-Electric Trend
Los Angeles joins a small, but growing trend of cities leading by example in constructing 100 percent clean energy municipal buildings. Already, the city has 26 all-electric buildings in development, totaling $1 billion in construction and 2 million square feet.
Seattle announced just last month it will be requiring all new or substantially altered City of Seattle buildings to operate without fossil fuels, and by January 2021, it will develop a strategy to eliminate fossil fuel use in existing city buildings.
San Francisco, in that same time period, announced all its new or renovated government buildings will be all-electric, the latest in the city's efforts to combat climate change.
Pittsburgh, too, recently committed its government buildings to become net-zero energy, meaning new buildings and major renovations will be highly efficient and produce as much renewable energy on-site or nearby as needed to offset the remainder of their emissions from heating water and warming or cooling their indoor spaces.
It's exciting to see the leadership exhibited by Los Angeles and other leading cities in this space. Not only are they leading by example, reducing emissions in their multi-billion-dollar building portfolios, but these cities are spurring demand for new technologies and less-carbon intensive materials, supporting workforce development and job creation, and paving the way for efficient, renewable, all-electric buildings across the country.
Already many developers are choosing to go all-electric on their own, and several cities across California are going beyond their own buildings to adopt building codes committing privately-developed new construction to go all-electric as well.
With continued commitment from the city and a robust community engagement process, the executive directives announced will significantly advance L.A.'s efforts to cut carbon emissions from buildings.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- Two White House Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Admin to Disband Coronavirus Task Force - EcoWatch ›
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
- Covering the 2020 Elections as a Climate Story - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks ... ›
By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Climate Activists Protest Germany's New Datteln 4 Coal Power Plant ... ›
By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.