In 2011, Hermosa Beach set a goal to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions from the city’s operations in order to put the city on a path to becoming a carbon neutral community.
Hermosa Beach asked UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability for help with this long-term goal. One of the Institute’s Environmental Science Practicum teams spent an entire year researching two main questions:
- What does carbon neutrality mean for Hermosa Beach?
- What would a carbon neutral Hermosa Beach look like?
The students looked at a range of future implementation measures like:
- Building energy retrofits
- A community electricity program to encourage solar and wind on buildings
- Vast reductions in vehicle miles traveled
- Increases in electric vehicles, walking, and biking.
They also looked at options to reduce the amount of water imported into Hermosa Beach and to reduce emissions from the waste the community sends to landfills.
By developing a community emissions model, the team was able to estimate how various policy scenarios would affect Hermosa Beach’s future greenhouse gas emissions. They found that the combination of existing state-level policies, like those to improve vehicle fuel efficiency and increase renewable energy, coupled with local policies in the city’s current Sustainability Plan, would reduce 2050 emissions by about 56%. More aggressive policy options would be required to reach the state’s goal of an 80% reduction, or the community’s goal of carbon neutrality.
The students also discovered even when trying all policy options, the city could likely only reduce emissions by 91% before 2050. Most of the remaining emissions were from natural gas, which the team found was difficult to eliminate. To achieve their goal of community carbon neutrality, the students concluded, Hermosa Beach would need to invest in emissions reductions elsewhere.
Students Lauren Dickson, Jessie Fan, Vanessa Goh, Amanda Maki, Sarah Savarani, Tasnuva Shabnoor, and Dana Trans worked with team advisor Juan Matute, director of the Climate Change Initiative at the Luskin School and Lewis Center, and planners Pamela Townsend of the City of Hermosa Beach and Sabrina Bornstein of the South Bay Cities Council of Governments.
The IoES designed the Practicum in Environmental Science to offer students the opportunity to work in small teams, with an instructor, on real-life environmental problems with external clients. Students gain research and professional development experience while working on cutting-edge sustainability issues in Southern California. Private and corporate support helps make the program possible.