Frontline Communities and Allies Point to Grassroots Solutions for Climate Change
March 19, 2019, Los Angeles, CA — The people’s voice won the day at today’s Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee (ECCEJ) of the Los Angeles City Council, chaired by Councilwoman Nury Martinez (CD6). Five City Councilmembers unanimously agreed to take the next step to create the world’s first Climate Emergency Mobilization Department. Under discussion was the Leap LA Coalition’s proposal initially introduced by Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) to embed a climate justice framework within a department empowered to address the city’s efforts to transform Los Angeles to a zero-emission, equitable, regenerative and resilient city by 2028, while ensuring that the community’s voice and vision for justice is at the forefront of a citywide just transition climate effort.
The topic of climate action has gained momentum in Los Angeles after the destructive Woolsey Fire of 2018 and the emergence of national discussions around a Green New Deal. Leap LA is a citywide coalition built from a nationwide effort which has been working together for well over two years to mobilize U.S. cities to leap society forward, transition off of fossil fuels and return the world to a safe environment as soon as possible. Inspired in part by the LA effort, more than 400 cities worldwide have declared climate emergencies.
Despite the city’s efforts to transition to meet 2030 and 2045 requirements to lower its carbon footprint, such as the recently-announced closures of the Scattergood, Haynes and Harbor Natural Gas Plants, Leap LA is challenging city leaders to think more broadly and deeply about how preparation for climate change can be more democratically achieved.
“We are interested in building a robust citywide effort that will detoxify communities already living fence-line to toxic sources, decarbonize our economy and democratize our decision-making and planning efforts.” says Martha Dina Arguello, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA. “Addressing climate change means we have to reevaluate and reorganize the city’s infrastructure as well as deeply engage residents, business owners, workers and industries on ongoing plans and delivery of services to handle impending climate change impacts and just transition. Our goal is to create a healthy city now and for future generations.”
Tuesday’s hearing room was packed with residents and advocates from a wide array of organizations across the city. Melissa Pantoja, long-time South LA resident with Esperanza Housing, said,”I’m very excited to hear that we may soon have the CEMD. This is what we need because for too long our neighborhoods, particularly communities of color, have suffered from negative health outcomes related to excessive vehicle emissions and chemicals released from petroleum extraction facilities located in the middle of our neighborhood. We look forward to the day our children do not suffer from respiratory, nasal and asthma-related conditions because they choose to play outdoors. We seek environmental justice and are willing to work closely with the CEMD Department to provide our community knowledge.”
Gloria Medina from SCOPE added, “We have to take this opportunity because we have seen what happens when cities and countries don’t prepare for the impacts of climate change, as well as how frontline communities are overlooked and ignored when it comes time to rebuild. We have to learn from the injustices still being felt by communities in Flint, New Orleans, and Puerto Rico.”
“My generation is in the unenviable position of trying to plan for futures that might already be impossible that we might not even live to see thanks to the impacts of climate change. The way cities deal with the climate emergency now is going to determine what our lives look like in the decades to come.” said Ruby Dutcher, Sunrise Movement Los Angeles.
“LAANE supports the formation of the Climate Emergency Mobilization Department because it will increase coordination between various departments in the City to act more urgently and efficiently to combat climate change and to ensure a Just Transition to create good jobs that enable our communities to help build new green infrastructure,” says Agustin Cabrera, Senior Community Organizer, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.
The proposal is expected to return to the ECCEJ Committee on April 16th, then proceed to the Budget Committee before being heard by full City Council. Councilmember Paul Koretz initially proposed the Climate Emergency Mobilization Department (CEMD), which Councilmember Bob Blumenfield co-presented, and the City Council approved in concept last year and allocated $500,000 toward further exploration. “While this work preceded the proposed federal Green New Deal, we have welcomed the inclusion and support of the Sunrise Movement and now the Youth Climate Strikers in our efforts,” says, Councilmember Paul Koretz. “We believe the CEMD can be the mechanism by which LA’s version of a Green New Deal can quickly and effectively be developed, implemented, and the necessary regional mobilization on climate action launched.”
Nury Martinez, Chair of the ECCEJ shared, “The environmental movement started decades ago, but generations of Angelenos who live in frontline communities have for just as long, been left out of the discussion. With today’s hearing, I am glad to see that my colleagues have recognized the urgency of addressing climate change, and are committed to tackling the environmental and social burdens in the very same frontline communities that have been most impacted by climate change.”
The Leap LA Coalition views this as the beginning of a real dialogue with frontline and fenceline voices, Indigenous communities and residents, business and industry at the table. Leap LA recognizes Los Angeles original inhabitants as the Tongva people. The Leap LA Coalition is comprised of: Communities for a Better Environment, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, The Climate Mobilization, Esperanza Community Housing, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), The Leap, 5 Gyres and representatives from AIM – American Indian Movement.