Robert Garcia is the Mayor of Long Beach and a speaker at Climate Day LA.
Tell us about your work on climate change.
I’ve made protecting our climate an important part of my agenda as Mayor. Long Beach is a coastal city, therefore more susceptible to the harsh effects of climate change and sea level rise than inland regions. The Port of Long Beach is a vital economic engine but is also one of the largest sources of air pollution. I set a goal to transform our port into a zero-emission goods movement system. I’ve pushed for the planting of 6,000 new trees to rejuvenate our urban forest, converting all streetlights to energy efficient LEDs, adding our first zero-emission buses to our transit service, and a large expansion of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, to name a few.
What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?
I was inspired in large part because my family and I came to this country as immigrants from Peru. Becoming a citizen is one of my proudest achievements. This country has given me so much, so many opportunities, that I want to give back. My first career was in education and I continue to teach because it gives me an opportunity to help students reach their goals through education. I am inspired by leaders and teachers who work to improve opportunities for young people.
What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?
Currently, our federal government’s retreat on climate change and efforts to increase use of coal and oil are serious threats. California is a progressive state leading the way with statewide and regional targets for emission reductions and other sound green policies. Concerns about the cost of implementing new technologies and loss of business to less restrictive environments is another challenge, but Long Beach is committed to making significant progress to slow climate change.
A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).
My first wish would be to provide zero-emission energy and transportation systems in our region, including goods movements at our Port of Long Beach. My second wish would be to clean our ocean of all the pollution and trash that have accumulated over far too many years. Our long coastal line would benefit greatly from this. My third wish is to fly like Superman.
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