Since the 1990s, the state of California has adopted environmental policies that set ambitious targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), with the most recent being a 40% decrease by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

Setting the appropriate strategies to meet reduction goals starts with knowing current GHG levels. But gathering such data takes time and resources that city staff often don’t have.

South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG) CivicSpark Fellow Lauren Estrella is working to fill this need. Last year, Estrella received her Master of Science in environmental and occupational health. In January she became one of 135 emerging environmental leaders selected to get their feet wet toward a future environmental career through a CivicSpark Fellowship.

From left: SBCCOG volunteer Maria Fonseca and CivicSpark Fellow Lauren Estrella are working to catalog the South Bay’s greenhouse gas emissions.

CivicSpark is an AmeriCorps program dedicated to the building capacity of local governments in California, Washington and Colorado to address emerging environmental and social equity resilience challenges such as climate change, water resource management, affordable housing and mobility. During their 11-month service year, CivicSpark Fellows complete research, planning or implementation of projects that provide the support public agencies need to advance their resilience initiatives.

Estrella is fulfilling her fellowship through work at the SBCCOG by conducting a meticulous review of GHGs for each of the 15 South Bay cities. SBCCOG volunteer Maria Fonseca, an engineer with solar energy experience, is assisting with the research.

To develop the inventories, Estrella and Fonseca are working with member cities to collect data and quantify emissions using the ClearPath tool ( clearpath) from ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

With a grant provided by SoCalGas and SoCal Edison, the SBCCOG previously conducted GHG inventories in 2005, 2007 and 2012. Estrella is comparing that data to current data. While it’s early in the process, so far, she is seeing a positive trend.

“It demonstrates that all of the work cities are doing to cut emissions—much of it driven by the SBCCOG’s Environmental Services Center (SBESC) Initiatives—is making an impact,” said Estrella.

The SBESC is a program that serves the subregion through energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction and transportation programs in partnership with cities and public agencies, such as West Basin Municipal Water District, Water Replenishment District (WRD), Southern California Regional Energy Network (SoCalREN), Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts and Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).

Once Estrella’s research is completed, the next step will be for the SBCCOG—possibly a future CivicSpark Fellow—to update climate action plans (CAPs) strategies for South Bay cities. The SBCCOG developed CAPs for each city and the South Bay as a whole in 2017. These reports outline specific strategies for cities to implement to reach their goals.

“If this trend continues in the research, working with cities to develop cleaner mobility plans that include conversion to electric vehicles and ride share will be a big priority,” she said. “Having these inventories as a tool will arm us with the data to secure funding to support our cities in
these efforts.” •

To read climate action plans for South Bay cities, visit