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From oil fields to green jobs: a path to a sustainable and resilient economy in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is transitioning away from fossil fuel reliance and creating good, green jobs in clean energy, ensuring no one is left behind in the process.

© P_Wei / Getty Images
© P_Wei / Getty Images

The climate crisis is not only an environmental issue. It is also linked to challenges like poverty and inequality, as low-income and marginalised communities are often more affected by the impacts of climate breakdown. Creating new local jobs and improving working conditions are among the most tangible benefits of city climate action. 

At the global scale, the evidence is clear: many sustainable investments offer more significant job creation potential than their high-carbon equivalents. Additionally, according to C40 research, for C40 cities to contribute their fair share towards reducing emissions and limiting global heating to 1.5°C, 50 million green jobs are urgently needed. 

Los Angeles has heard this call and is taking urgent, science-based and community-led action to reduce emissions while creating a thriving and sustainable local economy. Here, we’ll learn about LA’s journey to reduce its emissions, improve residents’ quality of life and create good #GreenJobsNow.

Pioneering a Green New Deal to transform Los Angeles

Home to more than 4 million people at risk of droughts, fires and earthquakes, the city of Los Angeles has been working for almost a decade to transform its environment and economy. 

Launched in 2015, the LA Sustainable City pLAn was at the forefront of this transformation. The pLAn set out the vision for a more sustainable, prosperous and just Los Angeles. By 2019, the city had already met or exceeded 90% of the pLAn’s near-term goals: LA became the number-one solar city in America, pioneered new transport technologies, reduced the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 11% in a single year, and created more than 35,000 green jobs.

Later, the city released LA’s 2019 Green New Deal, building upon the 2015 pLAn. The Green New Deal goes further to tackle the climate emergency, incorporating accelerated targets that simultaneously strengthen the economy and community resilience, expand access to healthy food and open green space, and sets the city on a course to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Revolutionising jobs alongside workers, unions and residents for a sustainable future

One key pillar of LA’s 2019 Green New Deal is the creation of sustainable employment opportunities. The plan envisions a profound shift in LA from reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy, marking a monumental transition for a city home to the largest urban oil field in the world, with a further 2,900+ active and idle oil wells located in residential neighbourhoods near community parks and schools. 

As the city and county worked to advance policies to phase out fossil fuels through ordinances approved in 2022 and 2023, a key consideration was to ensure that impacted workers and communities would not be left behind. Understanding that most successful economic outcomes occur when local governments plan early and take a community-centred approach, the city partnered with the county to establish a Just Transition Task Force. The Task Force comprises labour groups, workforce development experts, environmental justice leaders, the oil industry, Tribal Nations, academic institutions, and state and local governments. It was tasked with developing recommendations for meeting the needs of impacted workers and communities throughout the phase-out. 

In Focus... Los Angeles | C40’s Global Green New Deal Pilot

The fruits of this collaboration are both tangible and transformative. The Just Transition Strategy, released by the city after rigorous research and stakeholder engagement supported by C40’s Global Green New Deal Pilot Implementation Initiative, comprises 19 specific recommendations for oil drilling workers to transition into new employment in good, green jobs. From remediating closing oil wells to engaging frontline communities in land use redevelopment, this strategy isn’t just about job shifts, but also community empowerment. In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy, a federal partnership further amplifies these efforts, ensuring a comprehensive and cohesive approach.

Inclusivity, empowerment, and the road ahead

LA’s commitment to inclusivity and empowerment shines through in this initiative. Mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass said: “As mayor, I will lead Los Angeles to a new era of sustainability that supports frontline communities, makes major investments in energy efficiency, and creates thousands of good-paying jobs in the process.”

Norman Rogers, a Task Force member and the Second Vice President of United Steelworkers, Local 675, said: “It’s very important that workers are included in the fossil fuel phaseout. If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu. So you need to be there when these discussions are made.”

With the support of a recently awarded C40 Inclusive Climate Action (ICA) Cities Fund grant, the city of Los Angeles will continue to ensure frontline communities are not left behind in its journey to oil phase-out by creating a Workers Advisory Council and continuing its Just Transition Task Force. This will provide continuous input, guidance and feedback to the city and county and identify additional needs throughout the phase-out process. 

The road ahead is both promising and challenging, with LA recognising the need for a holistic approach that addresses worker and residents’ needs in the transition to a sustainable economy. As cities like Los Angeles pave the way for #GreenJobsNow and more equitable progress, it is a reminder that the fight against climate breakdown is both a moral imperative and an opportunity for transformative growth.


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