Achieving 100% Sustainability in Energy, Water and Biodiversity by 2050.
Sustainable LA Promise
With partnerships across sectors and communities, UCLA will develop a comprehensive plan to achieve sustainability in energy, water and biodiversity in the Los Angeles region by 2050. The plan, which will be ready in 2020, will include:
- Identification and development of new technologies or efficiencies for the region to cost-effectively obtain our energy from renewable sources and water from local sources while enhancing the region's biodiversity and human well-being.
- Strategies to preserve local habitats and species at risk due to the effects of climate change and urbanization.
- Methods to address current practices, baseline usage, building inventory, cultural behaviors and norms.
- Promotion of more equitable outcomes for communities and populations to help offset the burden now disproportionately placed on disadvantaged communities.
- Timelines, milestones, and required actions to transition Los Angeles to new energy, water and transportation systems; enhanced urban green spaces and protected lands; improved buildings; an updated regulatory framework; and informed land use practices reflecting a transformed urban fabric.
- A communications plan to build and strengthen partnerships with the stakeholders of Los Angeles to create shared commitments to implement required changes.
Approach to Solving the Problem
In designing our approach to this ambitious project, we have aligned our efforts along the UCLA mission priorities (research, teaching and service) as described in greater detail below.
Research Action Plan & Investment in Infrastructure
The first phase of the Sustainable LA Project is to develop the research action plan, which will map out the steps to be taken over the next few years. This plan will define the research priorities, required funding and knowledge gaps. This preliminary research action plan is expected to be completed by July 2015. [For more information about the committees formed to develop the research plan, please see the "Team" page.]
Student Immersion into Sustainable LA
UCLA has a student body that is very engaged in environmental issues and we have robust course offerings in a broad range of topics and fields related to environment and sustainability. The student community is eager to be involved with the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Project. The signature student immersion program for Sustainable LA is the Grand Challenges Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (GC-URSP), chaired by Rachel Kennison, PhD, which began in Fall 2014. The campus community positively responded to this course with 250 applicants vying for 55 slots in this year-long program, which includes students from across the campus. The enrolled students were each matched with faculty members from the Sustainable LA Project, and throughout the year will engage weekly in that faculty member’s research setting. Concurrent with this research experience, the students meet once weekly as a group for mini-lectures and practical exercises designed to enhance their fluency in the Sustainable LA project, build their research skills, provide varied teamwork experiences and refine their communication skills. [For more information about the course, please see https://vcr.ucla.edu/GC/URSP.]
In the first year following the launch, Sustainable LA was the feature of a DC tour, UCLA stakeholder and alumni events, meetings with local, state, and national elected officials, several public-facing events and a social media campaign. In the coming years, we anticipate greater engagement of the public with speaking engagements, events, partnerships with entities sharing common goals, and the use of citizen science/crowd-sourcing to gather required data.
The Sustainable City
Our vision of a fully sustainable Los Angeles by 2050 would include:
- Every rooftop in Los Angeles produces solar energy
- Smart metering sells energy back to the grid when it is most needed
- New technologies and policies dramatically cut water needs and increase supply
- Green spaces brim with beautiful native plants adapted to Southern California's dry climate
- An electric mass transit system and electric car infrastructure cut traffic and air pollution
- Bicycle and pedestrian options dot the cityscape
- Live–work communities and walkable neighborhoods reduce car dependence and foster social interaction and cultural vibrancy
- Money saved on energy and water bills flows into the local economy and more walkable neighborhoods increase foot traffic to local businesses
- Energy and water are harvested and managed while still protecting crucial ecosystem services and opportunities for recreation and enjoyment
- Green roofs and buildings, native gardens, neighborhood open spaces, green urban spaces, and other land-use and management strategies connect the city to its people, and both to their environment
- Adaptation and mitigation measures minimize the disruptive effects of higher temperatures, reduced water resources, rising sea level and other climate change impacts
Why this Grand Challenge Project is Important
- In the US, energy production and use accounts for more than 80% of our emissions of greenhouse gases, the drivers of climate change.
- The time to act is now. The L.A. region is already experiencing some of the impacts of climate change. We can expect to experience increases in temperature, sea level rise, wildfire frequency and size, as well as decreased local snowfall, and changes to the frequency and severity of extreme weather events.
- In Los Angeles, more than 85% of our water is imported from elsewhere. Los Angeles is particularly vulnerable to water shortages due to burgeoning population and climate change, which impact water resources.
- Globally, it has been projected that half of all living species might be lost by 2100. Virtually all of these losses are driven by human activities.
- By 2050, downtown L.A. will experience three times as many extremely hot days as it does now, and the valleys and mountains will experience four times as many scorchers.
- Los Angeles and its surrounding areas have more cars than any other urban area in the world.
- 33.5 million Californians live in areas plagued by unhealthy air and are at greater risk for asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature death. Climate change is expected to make the problem even worse.
Approximately 150 UCLA faculty, researchers and scholars are committed to the goals of Sustainable LA. Among these are some of the world’s top experts in sustainability: climate change, water quality and supply, smart grid technology, renewable energy, public policy, law, environmental justice, air quality, and more.
Four interdisciplinary research committees have been appointed to develop the research plan: (1) Energy, (2) Water, (3) Biodiversity, and (4) Spatial and Discipline Integration. The first three committees will each produce a research plan by June 30, 2015, while the role of the Spatial and Discipline Integration Committee is to ensure that the three plans integrate with one another.
To guide the planning and the Interdisciplinary Research Committees, there is also a Project Steering Committee with representation from a breadth of departments and disciplines participating in the Grand Challenge Project. In addition to guiding the research planning effort, this team will be actively involved with other groups working on education, development, communications and outreach plans. Also, it is anticipated that these leaders will ultimately be assisted in this effort by one or more external advisory boards with specific functions.
See http://bit.ly/UCLASustainableLArap for the campus-wide announcement of the committee members.
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Grand Challenges: A social movement for the greater good
On April 2, 2013, President Obama called upon companies, universities, foundations and philanthropists to join him in the pursuit of Grand Challenges—ambitious goals that capture the imagination and demand advances in innovation and breakthroughs in science, technology and implementation strategies.
From the Gates Foundation to NASA, private and public entities alike are embracing Grand Challenges with groundbreaking efforts that will create a better world.
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