Exporting Climate Solutions from the Port of Los Angeles

California is known for its beautiful beaches, healthy lifestyles, and attention to all things green – so anyone who has visited the Port of Los Angeles may be surprised to see the environmental and health consequences that can result from such a major industrial operation. However, that may be about to change.

This week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a new plan aimed at slashing fossil fuel emissions from one of the state’s largest single contributors of greenhouse gasses, the Port of LA. To accomplish this, the Mayor’s office has formed a new 10-member freight advisory committee, and will be working together with leaders in the nearby city of Long Beach. With representatives from industry, environmental organizations, and members of the community, the mission of the committee will be to identify avenues to reduce emissions from the Port.

Their focus will be on developing cleaner infrastructure and transportation systems. To accomplish this, local government and the state will invest in purchasing enough zero-emission vehicles to cover 15% of the ports traffic by 2025. A second component of the plan includes the construction of a new terminal. The Pasha Green Omni Terminal is a public-private partnership seeking to become a cutting edge example of how sustainable design can be applied to industrial infrastructure. It will include a 1-megawatt solar panel system and approach near-zero emissions.

Accomplishing these ambitious climate goals is no easy task. But these three elements are critical to the greening of the port, and the success of climate solutions nationwide.

3 Steps For Climate Success

  • Making Climate a Priority For the Community: Leaders must assure residents that climate solutions are community solutions. The port of Los Angeles is a hub of pollution in the State, and this has community consequences. Respiratory illness and asthma from diesel fuel emissions are elevated in neighborhoods adjacent to the port. Already, the port has cut particulate matter emissions from diesel fuels by 80% through a series of new emission requirements, and more cuts are underway. These actions yield real benefits for residents—making for healthier communities and better neighborhoods in which to live and raise a family.
  • Make Climate a Priority in Office: The new climate action plan underway at the port of Los Angeles is due, in part, to the ability of the Mayor’s office to facilitate the creation of the freight advisory committee. To accomplish this, strong coordination is key. Members of the community are invited to attend monthly meetings to weigh in on projects related to the sustainability goals. The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which oversees pollutants to benefit the residents of Southern California, will be working with businesses and industry, providing economic incentives for transitioning to cleaner technology. And leaders are working not only across multiple sectors, but also with multiple governments. Leaders from Los Angeles are acting in conjunction with their counterparts in Long Beach. Resources from the state are being provided with the help of Governor Jerry Brown, who has already committed up to 100,000 zero-emissions vehicles by 2030.
  • Build Strong Networks: Climate solutions rely on the dedication and input of leaders from multiple sectors, including business, health, industry, education, the nonprofit world, and local governments. Alternative voices from these sectors can often fill important gaps and solve problems that government agencies may be entirely unaware of. The faith sector can speak with moral authority about the ethical imperative of climate action. Business leaders can help spark innovation, bring forward new tech solutions, and provide financing and investments. Those in higher education can bring forward the latest in research and development, and are able to implement institutional climate solutions at scale—acting as a proving ground for municipal action.

Too often, competing interests can get in the way of municipal climate solutions. But the actions underway in Los Angeles are proof that climate action can be good for all sectors involved. As the mayor puts it: “We don’t have to chose between one and the other; we can have healthy communities and a healthy port.” Mayor Garcetti, in conjunction with local environmental, industry, and community leaders, is helping to transform the Port of Los Angeles from a climate plight to a shining example of sustainability to be replicated nationwide.

A growing number of mayors from around the country are committing to take bold climate action. Join with them and gain access to resources and guides to help you achieve climate success in your city by visiting Path to Positive Communities.

Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University, where he focused on climate change, political communications and psychology. Email him at stuart@ecoamerica.org.

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