As Mayor Garcetti and City Council advance plans for a Green New Deal in Los Angeles, Environmental and Climate Justice Leaders call for a Justice-Centered, Transformative Approach

LOS ANGELES, CA – LEAP-LA, a coalition of grassroots environmental and climate justice organizations representing some of the neighborhoods most heavily impacted by environmental racism and most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, responded to Mayor Garcetti’s State of the City Address and recent actions at the City Council with cautious optimism. LEAP-LA has advocated for a Green New Deal in Los Angeles shaped by these communities and putting their needs first, and City leaders are starting to pay attention — but much more work still needs to be done.
Mayor Garcetti made his own proposal for a Green New Deal — which he plans to release in full in the next two weeks — a focal point of his State of the City address last night. While the LEAP appreciates that the Mayor included elements of our proposed Climate Emergency Mobilization Department’s (CEMD) in yesterday’s address, the existing climate emergency for Angelenos still in harm’s way toxic emissions in their neighborhoods requires urgent attention.
Yesterday, the City Council approved a Green New Deal motion sponsored by Councilwoman Nury Martinez, the Chair of the Council’s Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee. That committee also unanimously approved another motion from Councilmember Paul Koretz to establish a Climate Emergency Mobilization Office and Commission and launch a series of Community Assemblies to shape climate and environmental policy in the City.
“We commend efforts to address the climate and environmental justice emergencies that exists today in communities all over this city,” said Lizette Hernandez, Director of Health and Environment Programs, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles. “We’re eager to meet directly with Mayor Garcetti to discuss how LA’s climate change policies address the painful price communities living on the frontlines of our fossil fuel-based economy are already forced to pay.”
“Communities of color clearly suffer the greatest burdens from the fossil fuel infrastructure from the pipelines that transport crude oil to Wilmington refineries to the oil drill sites located next to homes, schools, churches, daycares, and hospitals,” stated Darryl Molina Sarmiento, Executive Director, Communities for a Better Environment. “Those communities should have the first priority in receiving the environmental, health, and economic benefits of the clean energy economy. A Green New Deal for LA must be rooted in environmental justice principles because climate change starts and ends in our neighborhoods.”
“We see the devastating impacts both climate change and the fossil fuel industry driving it have had on low income communities of color from Louisiana to Houston to Standing Rock,” stated Lydia Ponce with the American Indian Movement. “Indigenous communities have a critical role in leading the resistance to climate change and shaping policies that protect mother earth. City leaders must ensure that indigenous people, especially LA’s original inhabitants — Tongva, Tataviam, and Chumash peoples — are afforded that role.”
“We believe that a Green New Deal must prioritize the voices and leadership of those on the frontlines of our climate crisis,” stated Gloria Medina, Deputy Director of Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education. “This includes communities like South LA that have borne the brunt of industrial pollution while also being shut out of economic opportunity. For this reason, we are encouraged by the prioritization of community voices through both a Community Assembly process and the creation of a permanent Climate Emergency Commission, which provides a structural way for our most overburdened and marginalized communities to shape LA’s just transition.”
“Los Angeles needs City leaders to do more to prevent further harm to human health and the environment, and incremental change won’t get us there. The Mayor’s vision for what a Green New Deal could look like in Los Angeles must include a rapid phase out of neighborhood oil drilling, and all fossil fuel operations in the City of Los Angeles,” stated Nancy Halpern Ibrahim, whose organization Esperanza Community Housing Corporation has led a nearly decade-long fight against the notorious Allenco oil drilling site in South LA.
“The commodification of our land and natural resources is polluting our air, poisoning our water and gentrifying our communities. The new circular economy must be rooted in the cultural and ethnic traditions of frontline communities,” Ibrahim said.
The Leap LA Coalition views the Climate Emergency Mobilization Department (CEMD) as the beginning of a real dialogue on Just Transition with frontline and fenceline voices, Indigenous communities and residents, business and industry at the table. We are working for a “just transition” away from the current extractive economy that steals the wealth and health of those living in overburdened communities and workers in polluting industries. The new regenerative economy must transition workers into healthier jobs, the old economy must transition into a local renewable economy with local investment led by community. The Leap LA Coalition is comprised of: Communities for a Better Environment, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, The Climate Mobilization, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), The Leap, 5 Gyres and representatives from AIM – American Indian Movement.
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