Climate in Los Angeles / City Leaders

This page is about how LA’s city leaders are dealing with climate change.

1. Are LA City leaders serious about the climate?

1.1 LA’s Underground Oil Industry

1.2 City of LA gets a “C” on climate performance.

2. City of LA’s is making good progress on climate.

2.1 LA’s Climate-cooling tree program

2.2 LA’s climate-saving pavement project

2.3 LA’s Climate Action Plan

2.4 LA’s residential solar requirement

1. LA city leaders are serious about the climate, right?

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti sitting at a table, talking to a group of businesspeople

The City of Los Angeles, mayored by Eric Garcetti, is starting to deliver local-scale public-works projects city residents will need to survive and thrive under a more challenging climate.

The City of Los Angeles wants to become a great example in climate adaptation & mitigation – in the United States and among World Cities. It’s well along that path. But LA’s got a gooey carbon problem that must finally go away.

1.1 With thousands of oil rigs sucking oil 24/7 in City neighborhoods, what is LA’s credibility on climate?

An oil rig looks out-of-place on an open lot in a suburban subdivision.

Wait. What? When you think of oil rigs pumping raw oil out from the earth, you see the plains of Texas or Oklahoma. But oil’s also being pumped from underneath the U.S.’s second-largest city. When LA was a town of 50,000 in the 1890s. Land speculators discovered oil underneath Beverly Hills. Soon after, oil companies were pumping oil from underneath large areas of Los Angeles.

Over the years oil producers got the City of Los Angeles to approve long-term contracts, and the city grew around the oil rigs. Now, in 2020, there are over 3,000 oil rigs churning away, day and night, in LA’s residential subdivisions, behind shopping centers, and next to schools. The City says it cannot cancel the long-term oil company contracts for fear of being sued for billions of dollars in lost business. The bottom line on climate in LA (in 2020) is that a city so ambitious about cutting carbon is actually a big source of oil that will be burned and cook the atmosphere.

Real Estate Blog: LACurbed. Angelenos have been living alongside the oil business since 1892 by Elijah Chiland, Nov 4, 2019. LA.Curbed.com/maps/oil-los-angeles-drill-sites-offshore

Alt News: Los Angeles Magazine. Above the Surface and Below, L.A. Is Still an Oil Town by Matt Jaffe. Feb 5, 2018. lamag.com/citythinkblog/surface-l-still-oil-town/

photo: David McNew/Getty Images

1.2 City of Los Angeles gets a C grade on climate, despite its urban oil drilling.

How well is the City of LA responding to climate change? Check your local government’s progress on cutting carbon and adapting to a new climate. Local Climate.com grades LA’s climate performance on a continuum from no climate planning activity at all, to a well-executed policy/project mix that –

adapts public infrastructure to a harsh climate.

upgrades City assets to climate-neutral electricity.

easifies people’s ability to consume clean electricity and drive electric vehicles.

The City of Los Angeles gets a grade of C because it has started to work on local climate policies and projects and showing some initial good progress. The City’s climate grade cannot improve while City leadership continues to allow oil drilling within the city limits.

2. These are some of LA’s plans, programs, policies, & projects for cutting carbon and getting ready for climate impacts.

2.1 LA climate adaptation projects

Climate adaptation is

2.1.1 Los Angeles gives people natural air conditioners (trees) to take home and grow.

An arborist shows children how to plant a tree. A mom and daughter pose with their two new trees. A boy is proud to have adopted his first tree.

This is how tens of thousands of shade trees get planted in Los Angeles each year: The City of Los Angeles Water & Power Department gives out shade trees at no cost to City residents. The City helps residents plant the trees, then checks in later to see how well the trees are doing.

Trees make the city feel cooler – by actually cooling the air. Tree leaves transpire tiny water droplets which evaporate into the air, providing a natural cooling effect. City neighborhood with tree cover can feel up to 15 degrees cooler that an adjacent treeless neighborhood.

The City of Los Angeles holds tree adoption events all over town, with some people receiving up to seven trees, depending on their property size. A city spokesperson says, “We’ll literally deliver them to your door.” Per LA’s Climate Action Plan, Los Angeles will have 90,000 new trees planted by 2021.

City site: cityplants.org/about-us/about-city-plants

2.1.2 Cooler streets can lower LA’s temperature.

Public Works crew pouring a heat-reflective coating onto a city street

This is a street pavement project. Since 2017, the City of Los Angeles has been experimenting with a special “cool pavement” on city streets to reduce excessive urban heat.  

Regular asphalt pavement absorbs the sun’s heat like a big thermal sponge; it’s dark color quickly holds onto heat. The white color of the new pavement coating reflects the sun’s heat away from the asphalt.*

On summer afternoons, the surface of an LA street is toasty hot – usually in the range of 90˚ to 155.˚ More than half of LA’s city land area is covered with regular asphalt pavement, so 90˚ to 155˚ is literally the temperature of much of the city’s “floor.” Solar heat accumulates in the mass of the streets during the day, and radiates back into the already warm city air during the night.

Over the next decades, the hotter the nights get, the more people will keep their air conditioning on thru the night – electrified by gas-fired power plants that spew yet more carbon gas into the atmosphere. Now the City can keep the streets from getting so hot in the first place. In ongoing trials, the City found that cool pavement reduces air temps by up to 15.˚ At 85˚ you want to crank the air. At 70˚ you can sleep with a window open. In 2020, the City is starting to cool-coat roadways during regularly scheduled repavings. 

* 8th grade STEM students recognize this property as the Albedo Effect, where heat is absorbed by darker colors and reflected by lighter colors.

City site: Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services bss.lacity.org/    

Photos:  Los Angeles Public Works Dept. Bureau of Street Services; Mother Nature Network

2.2 LA’s carbon reduction projects

2.2.1 LA’s got the best lit roads ever. and they’re easier on the climate.

LA's 415 freeway at night with its streetlights casting a yellow hue.
LA's 415 freeway at night with its streetlights casting a a natural-looking light

This is a city street lights project. LA’s new LED lights use much less energy, which helps put off a climate apocalypse. The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting is finding that its new LED streetlights provide better lighting, use much less electricity, and are much more affordable. 

The bottom line for the LA city taxpayers is nearly $9,000,000 in electric bill savings each year. When the City uses that much less electricity, it keeps almost 3.2 million tons of LA carbon, burnt to make electricity, from toasting the atmosphere.

Before and after: LA’s old, energy-draining light bulbs gave LA roadways a spooky yellow color – and uneven light.

City site: Los Angeles’ Bureau of Street Lighting http://bsl.lacity.org/

2.3 LA has a plan for the hotter climate

2.3.1 LA’s Climate Action Plan is part of the City’s transformational “Green New Deal” Plan.

Cover page of Los Angeles'  Environment and Energy Plan.

LA’s “Green New Deal” document includes LA’s new Climate Action Plan. Started in 2019, the plan runs thru 2050. Over the next decade, the City of LA is looking to run mostly on clean energy. Solar and Wind power will supply 80% of all of LA’s energy needs, including the charging of electric vehicles, by 2036.

In 2019, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s City Sustainability Office published LA’s Green New Deal: Sustainable City Plan, which sets targets for the City and everyone to cut way, way back on carbon emissions. To slash the use of carbon-fired electricity, LA’s climate plan rolls out the relatively new concept of All-Electric. All-Electric refers to the source of the electricity on this new kind of grid. Solar photovoltaics and wind turbines make electricity directly, without the need to burn anything.

“All Electric” Buildings: The City’s Green New Deal requires all new buildings and big renovations to be “All-Electric.” All-Electric buildings are residential, commercial, or industrial structures that produce their own electricity on site, mainly from solar photovoltaics. By 2030, all new buildings in the city will be built to be completely free of energy made from carbon fuels. ​By 2050, all existing buildings in the city will be carbon free. ​

All-Electric” Power Grid: The City of LA’s Power Department (LA Power) is building an all-electric, zero-carbon power grid. An all-electric power grid is the vast regional network of electric lines, transformers, battery arrays, and algorithms that will bring you only solar and wind-made electricity. LA’s all-electric power grid is being designed specifically to bridge the timing solar and wind energy production with the timing of people’s need for electricity. Solar and wind electricity, through this modern grid, will be available 24 hours a day, every day.

City site: City of Los Angeles Sustainability Office lamayor.org/Sustainability

2.4 LA’s Climate Policies

Effective solutions for carbon spew can be made through local government nudging and mandates. Guidelines, requirements, and regulations are a City’s means of governance on existential concerns – like sourcing climate-neutral energy for the local electric grid.

2.4.1 Los Angeles requires solar on new home construction.

This is about carbon reduction through local energy policy for housing.

These are new homes in LA, required by local ordinance (2025) that are 50% energy self-sufficient.

This is about carbon reduction through local energy policy for housing. Residential solar power has traditionally been an ambition of property owners. Now bellwether Los Angeles, is mainstreaming residential solar even further via local building regs. This bold an energy policy at the local level is unprecedented (2020).

In many cities a giant subdivision industry can rebuff calls to include solar in new construction. But in Los Angeles, leadership decided to require all new housing to run partly on self-made solar electricity.