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L.A. County to Be Net Zero by 2045 Under Updated Climate Plan

The County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a new climate action plan on Tuesday that will set updated standards for phasing out oil and gas production, construction of zero-carbon buildings and reducing driving trips.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an updated climate action plan on Tuesday, April 16, with the goal of reducing greenhouse gases emitted within unincorporated county areas to net zero by 2045.

After receiving considerable pushback from the building industry over requirements to increase housing densities and ensure a development near public transit that produced 300 nearby jobs per acre, the supervisors amended the plan to say the strategies were voluntary.

"The CAP (Climate Action Plan) is an aspirational vision to create a policy framework for future ordinances," said Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who added an amendment to the motion that stressed the goals-oriented, voluntary aspect.

Other supervisors echoed Barger's thoughts, saying the real teeth in the plan would come when individual ordinances for energy, housing projects and transportation wend through the county system, a process that could take years. The plan itself will be back before the Board in a few weeks for a second reading.

"I think it is important to recognize that this 'action plan' is actually made up of aspirational goals," said Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn. "Passing this plan alone doesn't lower emissions. The real work comes when our departments use this plan to develop policies and ordinances that not only help us lower emissions, but also make sense for the real world."

In an effort to build more housing near train lines and bus rapid transit lines in order to cut down on vehicle miles traveled — to reduce emissions that produce smog and greenhouse gases that cause global climate change — the county has developed an environmental clearance plan to fast-track housing projects.

If developers check off items on a green check list, such as reducing emissions from fossil fuels for heating and cooling a building, or adding rooftop solar energy, the development can be streamlined and go from planning to construction much more quickly, county officials explained.

"On development, it is a voluntary checklist. It is not compulsory," clarified Amy Bodek, director of the county Department of Regional Planning.

Several mandates were softened in the plan, Bodek explained. For example, the Climate Action Plan doesn't ban natural gas and no longer requires that all water come from local sources. However, what Bodek called green guideposts include:

—Obtaining energy for electricity only from non-fossil fuel sources, known as decarbonization

—Phasing out oil and gas production in 20 years; capping all abandoned oil wells that emit fugitive emissions

—Construct only zero-carbon buildings by 2045

—Reduce single-occupancy car trips by adding walkways and bikeways to-and-from public transit stops and adding more housing that connects to jobs and services

—Increase recycling and send less waste to landfills, which emit methane, a greenhouse gas.

Environmental groups supported the new plan and wanted mandated requirements.

"We need actions that lead to bold changes to address climate challenges," said Laura Garcia, with Communities for a Better Environment. She supported electrification of automobiles and housing.

Daniel Sipprelle, a legislative affairs assistant with the Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA), was concerned the plan would restrict imported water and add density to housing projects, two factors that would hamper the addition of new housing and slow economic growth.

Climate change has resulted in more intense wildfires that have expanded fire season to year-round, according to the county. Also, wetter storms in the last few years have produced local flooding and caused dangerous landslides.

"Climate change is an existential threat to our future, and it is already taking a toll on communities across L.A. County and around the world," Hahn said. "In my district ... on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, homes are destroyed and entire neighborhoods are threatened by land movement caused by historic rainfall."

The added costs of climate-induced disasters were singled out as a reason for climate adaption measures. The 2018 Woolsey fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties burned 96,949 acres, destroyed 1,643 structures and killed three people. The fire resulted in $10 billion in insured losses, the county reported.

Many people who live in hillside areas are seeing their homeowners' insurance canceled. For those who can get insurance, the rates have skyrocketed, the county reported.

"In many cases, costs over time are lower for emissions-reducing activities compared to the consequences of inaction," concluded a letter to the board from the Department of Regional Planning.

(c)2024 The Whittier Daily News, Calif. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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