LA is among 1,000 global cities committed to carbon neutrality. Mayor Garcetti explains how we’ll get there

Written by Kathryn Barnes and Jenna Kagel, produced by Christian Bordal

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday said that more than 1,000 cities worldwide have pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050. He made the announcement at the United Nations climate conference known as COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. 

“What happens in Johannesburg matters in Los Angeles,” he says. “What happens in Mumbai matters to LA.”

Two weeks ago, LA City Council passed a measure calling for the city to be carbon neutral by 2030. And by 2035, the city wants the Department of Water and Power (DWP) to provide electricity generated 100% from renewable resources, meaning no coal and no gas. 

The ambitious plans could hit Angelenos hard with skyrocketing utility bills or drastic lifestyle changes that may be unsustainable for a culture dependent on cars and air conditioning. But Garcetti says he’s confident the city can finance this major shift, and it'll end up being cheaper than reinvesting in old ways.

Garcetti says everyone needs to do more, such as transition to electric cars, ditch single-use plastic, and/or install solar panels.

If you can’t afford an electric car, Garcetti suggests looking into car shares through the BlueLA EV program. If you can’t afford solar, the DWP offers low-income solar and insulation assistance.

“This isn't about how much money you have in your pocket,” he says. “That caricature of the old days, where it's only homes on the Westside with a $80,000 Tesla and expensive solar panels, is changing everywhere.”

The mayor says it sometimes takes a month or two to adjust to something new. “But when you realize the payoff is that we will have a planet that's habitable and, by the way, a lot of new green jobs, it's well worth it.”

Garcetti won’t be in office to ensure the city hits its goals, but he’ll still be invested in outcomes. He says, “I'll be a taxpayer and a resident. I'll have a daughter and I'll have grandchildren one day here. And I'll want them to breathe clean air, and to not face fires, and to not have extreme heat. So I'm going to be every bit as interested in this for the rest of my life.”

However, he may potentially leave the city for a time period. President Joe Biden has tapped Garcetti to be the ambassador to India. If he is confirmed by the Senate, then Garcetti would relocate to India. “​​I will be there for some years. But I'll never change the most important title that I have, which is Angeleno, and this will always be home.”

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story during the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.