As it looks to solar, Los Angeles targets an inclusive green shift

  • Jun 18, 2021
  • Alert Net

In the six months since former gang member Ramon Ramos was released from prison, he has worked as a landscaper in Los Angeles - another minimum-wage job in a string of them.

But the 30-year-old Los Angeles native is hoping that will change when he finishes a 12-week training course in solar panel installation, opening the door to jobs that pay well over $20 an hour, compared to the $15 he's used to making.

"I hear people are trying to go green. So I thought there must be money in this if I work hard," Ramos said, unfurling the set of tools he is learning to use in his mother’s small North Hollywood apartment.

The free training program, arranged by nonprofit group GRID Alternatives, aims to launch people like Ramos into California's booming solar power industry and get solar panels installed in more low-income neighborhoods.

It's part of a broader effort by the Los Angeles government, community groups and businesses to help California's largest city achieve its climate change and social aims at the same time.

Los Angeles, the core of a metropolitan area of more than 12 million people, is part of the C40 Cities network, a group of nearly 100 major cities around the world working to drive faster action on climate change.

The cities have each committed to delivering climate action plans designed to spur uptake of clean energy, boost adaptation to climate threats and turn the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change into an on-the-ground reality.

Under Mayor Eric Garcetti, the chair of C40 Cities, Los Angeles has pledged to sharply curb its greenhouse gas emissions, aiming for a 45% reduction by 2025 and net zero by 2050, through measures ranging from decarbonizing the energy grid to promoting electric vehicles.

Many of the C40 city plans also seek to harness recovery efforts from the global coronavirus pandemic, including massive new government spending, to drive a swifter green transition.

Garcetti announced earlier this year that Los Angeles would launch its own "Green New Deal" to create over 300,000 climate-smart jobs by 2035.

Leaders are trying to ensure the shift benefits all residents - and gives a leg-up in particular to those left behind, like Ramos.

“L.A. is trying to demonstrate how climate action is also a road to racial and economic justice and equity," said Lauren Faber O'Connor, the city's chief sustainability officer.

That is a big challenge in a region racked by inequality, famous for its car culture and crisscrossed by 88 separate cities within L.A. county.

It requires coordination between many actors, from business and community organizations to city and county agencies.

"It’s going to be a long haul to meet our carbon-neutrality mandates," O’Connor admitted. "And we are only as strong as the partnerships we can build."