Thousands of people are out protesting in lower Manhattan calling for more global government action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. It was estimated more than 300,000 people took to the streets in New York on Sunday, and they're out again Monday in mass.
"The amazing thing about the scale of the protests [Sunday] was the diversity of the groups involved for the main climate change narrative," says Eric Roston, Bloomberg sustainability editor in New York. "What occurred yesterday was a broad-based, by geography and sector, coming together of the vast spectrum of interests who are being touched and expect to be touched by climate change."
The protests precede a UN climate summit, where more than 120 world leaders convene Tuesday with hopes of nailing down a binding treaty to address global warming — something they fell short of the last time they met for the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who sits on President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, is also in New York for climate week, but focused on easing climate change at a more local level.
He’s announcing a city-wide initiative in conjunction with the mayors of Houston and Philadelphia, known as the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda. It will call for binding emissions reductions at the federal and global levels, a municipal greenhouse gas inventory and search for carbon offset projects like urban forestry.
"As we saw so powerfully with a few hundred thousand people who were on the streets of New York yesterday, the world is kind of reawakening to the challenges of global climate change," Garcetti said.
Larry Mantle: How will this differ from California's Cap and Trade program for CO2 emissions?
Mayor Eric Garcetti: Well, that's a part of it. There's three aspects to it. One is a commitment to setting clear goals, and Los Angeles are already been at the cutting edge – whether it's reducing our coal, power generation, whether it's looking at our buildings, which are responsible in Los Angles for 51% of the global greenhouses gases we emit, or other actions we can take through things like solar panels in our homes.
Second, we also want to know how we count these things. This is where it gets squishy if you can't actually count and show where you're reducing things; we want to give cities an easy way to do that, and a common way to do that.
Third, California is lucky because, with our Cap and Trade laws, cities like Los Angeles can receive funds to continue these programs. As the state has begun to implement that, we absolutely are going to be the beneficiaries for more money for our public transportation, more money for our energy conservation, and even for things around our water because water takes so much energy to get to Los Angeles. If we can keep it here in Los Angeles by recycling it, we can reduce our global greenhouse emissions too.
LM: Once you do that inventory, and you know what Los Angeles city's contribution is to this, how does that fit in to the broader region? For example, if you're going to look at mandates on particular industries, it would seem that would have to be a regional endeavor because LA competes with surrounding cities. How would you implement that?
EG: We're very lucky. We have the largest municipal utility in the country. The power generation from the Department of Water and Power is a tool that a lot of cities don't have. But, you're right, it's a combination of actions: the international, national state and local levels.
This morning I served on the steering committee of what's called the C40, which is the cities of the world that uniting together on climate change. The mayor of Paris, Houston, of Sol, myself – we were all there together saying that we are united in making sure [we take] the best practices in each of these cities … Things like building codes, things like better public transportation, things like better planning are already under the city's control, and that's why cities can make such a huge difference while we wait for national action in each of our countries.
LM: All of these things have trade-offs, take for example housing construction in Los Angeles. There's a tremendous need for affordable housing. If there are environmentally-oriented additional mandates beyond what other cities have, might that affordable housing go elsewhere?
EG: We found the opposite to be true. Whenever we build affordable housing in a green way that uses less electricity and And, we're able to fund that through the Department of Water and Power, which gets paid back by the state whenever we have an energy efficient building. The greener the policy, the more money it's attracting. We're looking at thousands of jobs between solar installation, between some of the building materials, and others that are taking advantage of a $15 billion market for construction in L.A. So, instead of chasing business away, this has been good green policy in two ways: Good green for the environment and good green for the dollars.
Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Mayor