Save Every Drop While We Still Can International water expert Brian Richter joins California government officials for a panel at UCLA Luskin that stresses urgent need to conserve in an increasingly drought-plagued world

By Aaron Julian

“Every Californian should think about water the same way they think about electricity — you just don’t waste it.”

This sentiment expressed by Debbie Franco of the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research is typical of the conservation advice offered by a panel of water experts during a Feb. 22, 2017, presentation at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Spearheading the discussion was Brian Richter, an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia and author of the book “Chasing Water.” Richter outlined the historical relationship between humanity and water. He also explained his ideas to formulate a “water market” that would monetarily encourage responsible water usage on the personal, industrial and governmental levels.

“Disruption needs to happen more on the governmental level,” said Richter about the best approach to lessen overuse and foster more cooperation between city, local and state governments regarding an ongoing world water crisis. An example of intergovernmental partnerships is San Diego’s annual $60-million investment to encourage smarter water use by farmers in the Imperial Irrigation District in return for access to a third of the city’s water supply.

The Luskin Center for Innovation’s Greg Pierce led a question and answer session with the panelists regarding water conservation policy. Photo by Les Dunseith

Water is especially important for California governments and residents in light of the historic drought affecting the region. During a question and answer session led by the Luskin Center for Innovation’s Greg Pierce MA U.P. ’11 UP PhD ’15, panelists discussed how to keep momentum toward sustainable water systems despite recent downpours estimated at about 19 total inches of rain — equal to about 27 billion gallons of water.

Franco argued that the solution to the water issue needs to go beyond collaborative government — it has to become a way of life.

“One of the key elements that we are missing in California are folks that understand water,” she said. “We need people to feel like they are water managers in their own home. That’s an important first step toward a thriving and active participation in local government.”

She said such participation helps propel effective action at all levels. Richter added that “77 percent of all Americans have absolutely no idea where their water comes from.”

He noted a core argument of his book, that in order to have a fully active and informed citizenry, the science and policy communities need to fully understand water themselves.

Panelist Liz Crosson from the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office told the large crowd that attended the session that Los Angeles has instituted a Save the Drop campaign in partnership with the mayor’s fund, working to reach a 20 percent reduction from the 103 gallon per day of water usage per capita in the city. Even if successful, that mark is well short of Australia’s average of 50 gallons per day as noted by Richter in his book and lecture.

The city’s plan involves combating water illiteracy in combination with incentives and restrictions on water use. The city has also updated its rate structure to be more compatible with different socioeconomic brackets.

Still, Crosson warned, “Here in L.A., just because it is raining does not mean our water supply is in much better shape. We are trying to change that, but that’s a long time coming. This is now about a Californian way of life.”

Panelist Angela George of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works said she believes the most effective methodology would be a campaign to instill in children the techniques and habits of water conservation. “It is important to get into our schools and educate where our water comes from — a local perspective.”

Amid a crowd that included UCLA Luskin students and faculty as well as interested members of the community, passions sometimes ran high, with some questioning whether current efforts and ideas are sufficient to truly improve water conservation.

Panelists noted the importance of individuals working closely with local government in order to push for reforms they want to see.

“You have to find out how to mobilize the political wherewithal,” Franco said. “Show up and know what’s going on, and keep telling what you want.”

The lecture and panel discussion were put together by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation in partnership with Island Press as part of a speaker series known as Luskin Innovators.

Author and academic Benjamin Barber speaks to the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on Oct. 26 about the role of cities in solving global problems. Photo by Les Dunseith

Global Change Should Stem from Local Leadership Author and academic Benjamin Barber says cities present the best hope of solving the world’s problems

By Zev Hurwitz

While voters weigh the prospects of which presidential contender is best suited to address the big issues in 2016, one academic thinks the real change-makers are at city halls — not the White House.

During an Oct. 26 lecture at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Benjamin Barber, a noted political theorist and author who holds a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University, lectured on his philosophy that the key to addressing major global problems is tackling those challenges from the local level.

“Common sense problem-solving pragmatism makes cities the most useful governing institutions in the world as compared to the 19th Century ideologically based national politics of … countries all over the world,” Barber said.

Speaking in front of a crowd of more than 50 students, faculty and community members, Barber asserted that cities are uniquely positioned to address every major challenge facing the international community because these issues are no longer specific to individual nation states.

“Every problem we face is a problem without borders,” said Barber, a professor emeritus at Rutgers University and founder of the Global Parliament of Mayors. “Cities are positioned to address every major problem we have globally.”

The lecture’s title, “How Cities Trump Trump: Urban Pragmatism vs. Toxic Campaign Demagoguery,” was meant “to draw you in, the same way MSNBC does: with Trump,” Barber said, noting that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric claiming an international conspiracy to undermine American sovereignty is flawed and “toxic.”

“Trump is right in pointing to the loss of sovereignty, but where he’s wrong is thinking that it is due to stupidity,” Barber said. “We need to learn how to accommodate, not how to scapegoat.”

Nationalized global power, the way Trump describes it, started disappearing after World War II and hasn’t existed since, Barber said.

“Sovereignty, the jurisdiction of a national government over all of the issues its people face, doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, in any country claiming to be sovereign,” Barber said. “We are still responding to these global, borderless problems with sovereign nationally based governments.”

Because the power spheres are organized differently in the 21st Century, the real power — and driving force for change — lies in cities, which Barber said is euphemistic for all regional and local governance, not necessarily individual municipalities.

Cities have a unique interest in driving solutions to global issues because “the problems of cities and the problems of the globe are very much the same.” To illustrate this point, Barber pointed to two major issues: climate change and terrorism.

Most of the world’s population, in the 21st Century, lives in cities, and most cities are within proximity to bodies of water, meaning that much of the world’s population has a vested interest in combating climate change and rising sea levels. In addition, Barber said, 80 percent of greenhouse gases are generated from cities. Because the cause and the effect are both specific to cities, cities are best suited to address that challenge.

About terrorism, Barber said that problem-solving must come from local leadership because terrorists almost exclusively target cities.

“Nobody has attacked a pecan farm in Sacramento,” he said. “They come after cities because that’s where the people are. Terrorism is aimed at cities because cities represent everything that terrorism rejects.”

In order to address major global challenges, Barber said, cities, and their leaders, need to practice collaboration with interlocutors locally and with other cities.

“Cities work by consensus, by collaboration, by building bridges and working with everybody,” he said.

Barber spoke about his involvement with the Global Parliament of Mayors, an international body of local leaders that convened for the first time in September. There was a need for “enacting common urban legislation, not just best practices.” According to Barber, the United Nations’ model of organizing nation-states based on their sovereignty has stymied opportunities for problem-solving. The Global Parliament of Mayors has potential to be a unifying force beyond international borders.

“This is a founding seedling for what, in time, can become a genuine governance organization — a kind of U.N. body,” he said, calling the ideal for the organization to be a body that is “defined by the natural collaborativeness of cities” and their capacity to work with one another.”

The Department of Urban Planning organized the lecture and the Department of Public Policy co-sponsored it, with assistance by the Luskin Center for Innovation and the UCLA departments of History, Philosophy and Political Science.

Mark A. Peterson, chair of the Luskin School’s Department of Public Policy, introduced the speaker, saying that the lecture “couldn’t be more timely.”

“Much of the American public, and our own faculty and students in the Luskin School, have felt intense frustration over the years of policy stalemate at the national level,” Peterson said after the event. “Dr. Barber presented the possibility of a different pathway for addressing major issues — problems for which there seems little prospect of making progress through congressional and presidential action, regardless of the results of the 2016 elections.”

Peterson also noted the application of Baker’s philosophy in Luskin’s curriculum.

“The motto of the Public Policy Department is ‘advancing knowledge in the public interest’ — an essential requirement for understanding the causes of societal problems and identifying interventions that mitigate those causes,” Peterson said.

“However, the actions to be taken, whether by national governments or subnational institutions, are necessarily determined by governing institutions embedded in political processes, ideally with full opportunities for democratic choice and accountability. All of these elements are features of the Public Policy MPP curriculum and prominent in Dr. Barber’s scholarship and public engagement.”

Barber has authored 18 books, including 1995’s best-selling “Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World” and 2013’s “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.

Soham Dhesi, a first-year Master in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) student attended the event. Like Peterson, Dhesi said she found parallels between Barber’s lecture and her Luskin coursework in urban planning.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘What is urban planning — haven’t cities already been built?’” Dhesi said. “This is an answer to how cities can be important tools to address these global problems.”

Dhesi referenced the histories and theories of urban planning and course discussions on grassroots movements and individual participation in change-making, saying she found application of Barber’s views on the potential for cities to lead the way.

“Citizens, through their participation in the city, can bring about change,” she said. “Cities are a way for people to participate, which is harder to do at a national level. This goes in line with what we were learning in class about community development.”

Angelenos On Track to Meet 2017 Water Conservation Goals New study by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation reinforces importance of turf removal

Two years after Mayor Eric Garcetti signed Executive Directive 5 (ED 5), putting in place strong, emergency drought response measures for the City of Los Angeles, water customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) remain ahead of schedule in meeting citywide water conservation goals.

Water use by LADWP customers remains down approximately 20 percent from 2014 levels, meeting the goal for 2017 as set forth in ED 5 and the LA’s Sustainable City pLAn ahead of schedule. LADWP water officials attribute much of the success to Angelenos’ continued actions to reduce outdoor watering and replace water-thirsty turf with drought tolerant landscapes. Approximately 50 percent of residential water use in Los Angeles is attributed to uses outdoors and LADWP’s turf replacement rebate program has resulted in 37 million square feet of turf being removed in the City of Los Angeles, saving 1.6 billion gallons of water each year.  That’s enough water to supply 15,000 LA households each year. LADWP currently provides participating customers a rebate of $1.75 per square foot to rip out turf and replace it with California friendly landscaping. The rebate level has been maintained by LADWP even after the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) eliminated its additional $2.00 per square foot rebate in 2015.

A new study by UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation shows that $1.75 per square foot is a reasonable amount that pays off for both residential households who utilize the rebate and LADWP ratepayers.

The Luskin Center’s report, Turf Replacement Program Impacts on Households and Ratepayers: An Analysis for the City of Los Angeles, answers two questions: Under what conditions does participation in the turf replacement program provide financial benefits to households? And is the turf replacement program a reasonably cost effective investment for utilities and ratepayers?

In order to assess the economics of lawn replacement from the household perspective the report measures the impact of different rebate levels, turf replacement costs, climate zones (determined by different evapotranspiration rates across the city), and future expected water pricing on household financial benefits. The report calculates the payback periods for ratepayers based on varying levels of household participation in the turf replacement program and different levels of rebates. Rebates offered at $1.75 result in a payback period for typical households and ratepayers of approximately 10 years, comparable to other investments like solar.

“Angelenos are the water heroes of California — we’ve pulled up 37 million square feet of thirsty turf, more than two-thirds of the state’s target, and reduced our water use 20 percent,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “We have made amazing progress in the two years since I signed an executive directive to respond to our drought, and the study released Monday shows that our incentives are working. But we can always do more, and I’m proud of our Department of Water and Power for making sensible, effective improvements to our turf rebate program.”

“Turf replacement programs, when well designed, are an essential conservation tool for communities to become more drought and climate resilient,” said J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.

To further the benefits of its turf rebate program, LADWP recently updated the program guidelines. The amended terms and conditions will continue to promote the installation of native and California Friendly low water-use plants while ensuring each project incorporates sustainable design elements that benefit the customer and help contribute to the City’s future water conservation goals.

Changes to the turf rebate program include:

No longer providing rebates for the installation of synthetic turf;

Increasing California Friendly plant coverage required from 40% to 50%;

Limiting the amount of rock, gravel, or decomposed granite to 25% of the total project;

Incorporating rainfall capture techniques in project designs;

No longer permitting the use of synthetic or chemically treated mulch;

And recommending the use of biodegradable (natural/organic) weed barriers (instead of synthetic weed barriers).

“These turf rebate guideline changes allow LADWP to push an already positive sustainability program for our environment to an even higher, healthier standard,” LADWP General Manager David Wright said.

The program changes will assist LADWP customers in better capturing, conserving, and reusing water to prevent runoff on their property and reduce water demand. In addition to these water-saving benefits, by requiring program participants to minimize the use of materials such as gravel, pavers, decomposed granite, and synthetic turf – materials that often create a “heat island” effect on properties by absorbing the sun’s heat – LADWP aims to lower surface and temperatures on properties. This added benefit may assist customers in limiting energy use by reducing the need for air conditioning.

To learn more about LADWP’s turf rebate and other water conservation programs, please visit myLADWP.com.

UCLA’s Carbon Upcycling Team Advances to Semifinals of Carbon XPRIZE Competition

By Stan Paul

An interdisciplinary team of UCLA researchers has advanced to the semifinal round of a global competition to reduce greenhouse gases through groundbreaking scientific and technological innovation.

The UCLA team, Carbon Upcycling — representing a campuswide collaboration of chemistry, biochemistry, materials science, economics, public policy and engineering (mechanical, civil and environmental) researchers — is among 27 teams moving one step closer to a share of the $20-million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.

“Advancing to the next round of the Carbon XPRIZE confirms the potential of our carbon upcycling technology, and further motivates the team toward its end goal, that is the realization of a carbon-neutral cementation solution at scale,” said Gaurav Sant, one of five UCLA faculty members leading the 13-member team. Sant is an associate professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.

J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation and a professor of Public Policy in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, is one of the leaders of the project. “The XPRIZE competition not only inspires innovation, but also provides an opportunity to showcase the talent at UCLA and the incredible power of collaboration,” DeShazo said. “We look forward to the next stage of discovery and development.”

The competition, which was launched in 2015, “addresses global CO2 emissions by incentivizing innovative solutions to convert CO2 from a liability into an asset,” according to a Carbon XPRIZE press release announcing the selection of teams moving forward in the competition.

Carbon Upcycling uses CO2 emissions from power plants and turns them into a replacement material for cement called CO2NCRETE. Common concrete, which is produced in countries around the globe, is responsible for nearly 5 percent of emissions worldwide. The UCLA team is among six teams vying in both competition tracks: Track A — coal, and Track B — natural gas. Other semifinal teams from the United States, Canada, China, India, Switzerland and Scotland have focused on turning the climate-changing gas into products ranging from toothpaste to fish food.

According to the Carbon XPRIZE announcement, the semifinals will work as follows:

  • Teams will demonstrate their innovative technology at pilot scale at a location of their own choosing, using either real flue gas or simulated flue gas stream.
  • Over a 10-month period, teams must meet minimum requirements and will be scored on how much CO2 they convert and the net value of their products.
  • Following judging scheduled for November and December 2017, up to five teams in each track that score the highest will share a $2.5-million milestone purse and move onto the finals of the competition, demonstrating their technology at real-world power plants.

Read the full Carbon XPRIZE release online at:
http://carbon.xprize.org/press-release/27-teams-advancing-20m-nrg-cosia-carbon-xprize

For more information about the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, visit carbon.xprize.org

For more information about UCLA Carbon Upcycling team, please visit: http://www.co2upcycling.com/members/

Read the earlier UCLA story: http://luskin.ucla.edu/2016/03/14/carbon-upcycling-turning-co2-into-a-new-sustainable-co2ncrete/

UCLA Carbon Upcycling Team Enters XPrize Interdisciplinary researchers, including UCLA Luskin faculty and students, will compete with teams from around the world vying for $20-million NRG COSIA Carbon XPrize

Carbon Upcycling, an interdisciplinary team from UCLA, has announced its official entry into the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. Carbon Upcycling, headquartered in Los Angeles with 13 team members, is among a growing number of teams from around the world vying for a share of the $20-million prize purse.

The Carbon XPRIZE is a competition that challenges teams to develop breakthrough technologies that convert the most CO2 into one or more products with the highest net value. Co-sponsored by NRG and COSIA, the multi-year competition is designed to address CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, a leading contributor to climate change.

Carbon Upcycling is composed of UCLA professors, students, and staff. The team has formed over the past year to explore new approaches for developing construction materials. Led by five distinguished professors including Gaurav Sant, associate professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and J.R. DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center and professor of Public Policy, Urban Planning and Environmental Engineering, the team has succeeded in developing a new technology which transforms waste carbon dioxide from power plants into a new building material that can replace cement, a material responsible for approximately 5 percent of worldwide CO2 emissions.

“We have proof of concept that we can do this,” DeShazo said. “But we need to begin the process of increasing the volume of material and then think about how to pilot it commercially. It’s one thing to prove these technologies in the laboratory. It’s another to take them out into the field and see how they work under real-world conditions.”

By removing CO2 from power plant smokestacks this technology reduces the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions and could be a game-changer for climate policy, DeShazo said.

For more information about team Carbon Upcycling, please visit http://www.co2upcycling.com/. High-resolution images, video and other team materials are available upon request.

For more information about the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, visit http://carbon.xprize.org.

Susanna Hecht on Climate Change Professor Susan Hecht works to achieve the UC system`s goal of carbon neutrality by 2025

By Stan Paul 

For Urban Planning professor Susanna Hecht, the future of life on this planet as we know it is a matter of degrees — a scant few at that.

Hecht is part of a group of 50 University of California scholars and scientists addressing the 10-campus Carbon Neutrality Initiative proposed by UC President Janet Napolitano in 2013. Under this initiative, the University of California aspires to become carbon neutral by 2025. Recent California legislation also calls for a marked increase in the amount of renewable resources providing electricity in California by 2030.

Hecht and her UC colleagues, led by Veerabhadran Ramanathan (renowned climate scientist from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography), are among those who want to “bend the curve,” or the “hockey stick” graph as Hecht refers to it, on the rise in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. A mere two-degree change in average temperature will portend future disaster from drought to sea-level rise, and changing weather patterns that most of the globe is not prepared for, according to experts representing a wide range of disciplines.

Hecht said, “We are already in the middle of this…and a lot of records are being broken on a weekly basis.”

The group of UC scholars, from fields as diverse as ethics and environmental justice to climate science and religion, met in October at the University of California’s Summit on Pathways to Carbon and Climate Neutrality: California and the World, led by California Governor Jerry Brown. The purpose of the meeting was to focus on solutions that could guide the state but also to provide solutions that could be used worldwide. UC research and recommendations were also part of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris.

In addition to carbon (which has a long life in the atmosphere), Hecht points out the many other factors that contribute to temperature rise, such as methane and HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) released into the environment, as well as the “heat island” effect our built environment, roads and urban centers create.

As a “carbon sink,” the tropical rainforest absorbs millions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere, and Hecht points out that deforestation of the Amazon has dropped significantly in the last decade. This has had an impact, but the rainforest can’t do it alone, especially when deforestation continues in other parts of the world such as Indonesia.

Change will require not only scientific innovation but also social innovation that focuses on our relationship with forests, said the co-editor of “The Social Lives of Forests: Present and Future of Woodland Resurgence.”

Accepting a Grand Challenge UCLA Luskin Researchers Awarded First LA Grand Challenge Grants to Support Efficient Transportation and Local Sustainable Water Research

By Stan Paul

Innovative and sustainable use of water and energy in Los Angeles is at the heart of UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, and three UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs researchers are at the forefront of this campuswide initiative.

Brian Taylor, Juan Matute and J.R. DeShazo are among 11 winners of the $1.2 million in competitive research grants awarded through the Challenge’s Five-Year Work Plan, which envisions a 100-percent renewable energy and local water scenario for the greater Los Angeles area by 2050. In addition, Jaimee Lederman, an Urban Planning doctoral candidate at Luskin, was recently named an LA Grand Challenge Powell Policy Fellow for a research/scholarly project that will directly contribute to advancing the goals of the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge.

Taylor and Matute said that their project will specifically study the viability of shared zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) and transportation network companies (TNCs) “to and from major transit stops to promote both ZEV and transit for commute-related traffic.” They believe the “meteoric rise” in use of TNCs, like Uber and Lyft, may address so-called “first-mile, last-mile” problems of daily transportation and encourage “mix-mode” travel that includes the use of expanding rail and bus rapid transit networks in Los Angeles.

“The TNC business model enables high daily vehicle utilization rates and high occupancy rates (percentage of seats filled) compared with personal vehicle ownership and operation,” said Taylor and Matute in their winning proposal. In addition, they indicated that the high rate of utilization rates will help zero-emission vehicle owners to “amortize the higher initial cost over a greater number of annual operating hours,” thus providing quicker returns on their investment.

Taylor, a professor of Urban Planning, is director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) at Luskin. Matute serves as associate director of the Lewis Center and ITS. DeShazo’s winning proposal will assess whether creating a unified water market, or “OneWater,” as he calls it, out of the current fragmented system of more than 200 community water systems in Los Angeles, is a real possibility. DeShazo is director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and is a professor of Public Policy, Urban Planning, and Civil and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.

“A regional water market could enable those systems with underutilized water resources to develop and supply water to systems facing higher costs, poor quality and unreliable supplies,” said DeShazo. “This opportunity to trade water expands the lower-costs supply options available to higher-costs systems, thus reducing regional inequality,” he said.

DeShazo pointed out that each system in the county’s fragmented market varies in numerous ways such as access to groundwater and aquifer storage, storm water capture, direct and indirect water re-use as well each of the current system’s potential for conservation. The proposal also calls for the creation of an advisory panel for a joint powers authority that would manage the OneWater market.

“The only way that all water systems in L.A. County can achieve 100 percent local water is if a system that enables the trading of water among systems is created,” noted DeShazo. “Trading would create a revenue stream that attracts new investment in blue infrastructure.”

Lederman’s proposed project is titled, “From Great Idea to Sustainable Outcomes: traversing political roadblocks of local participation in regional environmental initiatives.” Serving as her faculty mentor is Martin Wachs, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning. The fellowship award was made possible through a generous gift from Norman J. Powell.

The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge is currently engaged with more than 150 UCLA faculty and researchers from more than 70 campus departments who are seeking ways to improve the quality of life as population growth and climate change affect the Los Angeles area.

Read the complete story on the UCLA Newsroom website.

A Conversation with Mary Robinson: Former President of Ireland on Climate Change Luskin Lecture Series features human rights and climate change leader on a sustainable future

By Stan Paul

Mary Robinson started her career with a deep passion for human rights, from economic and social to food, education, women’s rights, security and peace.

It was only later that the former president of Ireland says she saw the link between human rights and climate change, while serving as the United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Change. Her work and travels in Africa made her aware that climate changes were tied to uncertainties of drought and flooding and that “something was happening.” She heard again and again, in countries such as Liberia, that “things were getting so much worse.” In areas where the focus was traditionally on poverty or other issues, there were now areas where the climate — and planting and harvest times — could no longer be predicted.

“We needed to be talking about the injustice of climate change,” which affects the poor and most vulnerable, even the U.S., citing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the poor in the U.S., said Robinson, who served as a U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights until 2002.

Following Robinson’s January 12 Luskin Lecture in UCLA’s Charles E. Young Grand Salon, former Los Angeles Times writer and editor Jim Newton moderated a discussion and Q&A session, asking Robinson about the impact of the recent Paris Climate Agreement.

Robinson, organizer of foundations including Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative and The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, said she was energized by the talks in Paris, which provided a new way of describing the problem, and that she was encouraged that nearly 200 countries that all agreed on individual contributions to be made toward carbon emission reduction.

“It was actually a fair agreement, not strong but fair — that was extraordinary,” said Robinson.  She said that the Paris Agreement provided a new target for the world. “It put a stake in the ground.”

Even so, Robinson, citing a recent U.N. study, pointed out that if all of the countries realized their commitments to carbon reduction and climate change from the Paris Agreement, the world is still on course for a disastrous temperature increase beyond the oft-citied two-degree climate cliff.

Robinson said that more has to be done for a sustainable future, but the Paris agreement is nevertheless important because many countries would have given up, and that many small countries, island nations, will be “under water with 1.5 degrees.”

Robinson, who attended the climate talks in Paris, praised California, saying that the state was notable for its leadership in climate change and illustrating what can be done.

Prior to her presentation, co-sponsored by the Hilton Foundation and the Global Public Affairs (GPA) program at Luskin, a small group of UCLA Luskin graduate students had the chance to talk one-on-one with Robinson.

Jason Karpman, a second-year Urban Planning graduate student, said he was interested in this opportunity to talk with Robinson because of his interest in climate change, specifically carbon sequestration. “It’s the elephant in the room,” said Karpman, adding that, right now, “there are not a lot of options on the table.”

Robinson stressed to her pre-talk audience of Luskin students from Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning that the quality of leadership matters. “We need the policy decisions that are the right decisions,” and making policy more “people centered.” She added that the goal of sustainability should be to not leave anyone behind, which is what happened in the industrial revolution. She said that while the world must reduce carbon, at the same time, more than a billion people are energy poor, with no access to electricity and still burning dangerous kerosene in their homes.

“We have the gadgets,” said Robinson referring to LED lights, solar power, etc., and the ability to make payments on mobile phones via cell phone applications. “Most developing countries are interested in clean energy,” she said.

The discussion also included a range of important topics such as reforestation that is economically effective, the use of lighter materials such as carbon fiber in vehicles, technology and migration patterns. Migration patterns caused by politics and climate change are shaping up to be “one of the biggest issues worldwide,” said Robinson. “People have to move.” She said the real issue is how to manage migration in big numbers, pointing out how Syria and other countries have suffered both conflict and ongoing drought as well as the problems faced by countries due to an influx of migrants.

“They will come whether we like it or not,” she said. “We have to have leadership now.”

Robinson also has a very personal interest in the future of the planet — her grandchildren, who will be growing up in an age of severe climate change. She pointed out the intergenerational equity of the problem.

“This is about your children and grandchildren,” she said. “It’s their future.”

To view a video of the Mary Robinson Luskin Lecture, go here

To read coverage in UCLA Newsroom, go here

The Luskin Lecture Series

The UCLA Luskin Lecture Series enhances public discourse on topics relevant to the betterment of society. The series features renowned public intellectuals, bringing scholars as well as national and local leaders to address society’s most pressing problems. Lectures encourage interactive, lively discourse across traditional divides between the worlds of research, policy and practice. The series demonstrates UCLA Luskin’s commitment to encouraging innovative breakthroughs and creative solutions to formidable policy challenges.

Urban Planner Susanna Hecht Among Experts on Climate Change “Bending the Curve,” was released at the UC Climate Neutrality Initiative Summit

Professor of Urban Planning Susanna Hecht is part of a team of 50 UC researchers and scientists who authored a report on climate change released Oct. 27.

“Bending the Curve,” was released at the UC Climate Neutrality Initiative Summit held in San Diego and includes 10 scalable solutions to reduce global greenhouse emissions such as methane, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and ozone. The report’s title refers to “flattening the upward trajectory of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and consequent global climate change.”

Hecht, who focuses on political ecology, also was among UC scholars cited for providing “critical analyses and some of the quantitative estimates mentioned in the executive summary.”

Read the full UCLA story: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/ucla-uc-experts-release-report-with-solutions-to-slow-climate-change

Read the report “Bending the Curve”: http://uc-carbonneutralitysummit2015.ucsd.edu/_files/Bending-the-Curve.pdf

 

Luskin Center Deputy Director Briefs U.S. EPA Leadership and National Conference Participants on Advancing Climate Justice Luskin Center representative at EPA Conference

One of the most significant events in the arena of climate justice took place when California’s Senate Bill 535 (SB 535) was signed into law, stated Charles Lee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and one of the nation’s most prominent leaders on environmental justice.  SB 535 mandates that at least 25% of the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund investments go to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities.

Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center, was one of four SB 535 leaders from California invited by Lee to meet with senior EPA staff and also speak on a panel at the National Environmental Justice Conference on March 12 and 13th in Washington D.C. In addition to Callahan, the other panelists were the “father of SB 535” Shankar Prasad of the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA, and formerly with the Coalition for Clean Air); Mari Rose Taruc, organizing director for the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and coordinator of SB 535 Coalition; and Arsenio Mataka, assistant secretary of environmental justice and tribal affairs, CalEPA.

The panelists shared the “backstory” of the efforts to conceive, pass and now implement SB 535.  They provided first hand perspectives on lessons regarding their successes and challenges—past and present, as well as implications for other parts of the nation.

Callahan emphasized that SB 535 and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) represent a tremendous opportunity to advance climate justice. She also noted the challenge in implementing such a major and unprecedented initiative. Pulling from the UCLA report on SB535 entitled, “Investment Justice through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund,” she provided key recommendations for implementing the GGRF to ensure the investments maximize environmental, economic and public health benefits for communities across California most in need. The recommended evaluation and performance management approach draws from an earilier report “Pathways to Environmental Justice: Advancing a Framework for Evaluation” created by the UCLA Luskin Center in collaboration with EPA and EJ leaders from across the nation.