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Greenhouse Gas and Wage Sustainability

Los Angeles is a world metropolis situated in a fragile air shed that provides homes and jobs for a transnational labor force.  The region’s future will emerge out of an economy deeply intertwined with both environmental and socio-economic realities. Achieving sustainability requires an industry structure that provides enough jobs for the labor force, pays sustaining wages to workers, and sharply reduces the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to jobs.

This project is providing an integrated framework for assessing both the environmental and social sustainability of industries. Socio-ecological interrelations are assessed based on greenhouse gas emissions per job, socio-economic interrelations are assessed based on wages per job and also the economic robustness of industries. Scaling these effects to a single job provides a policy tool for analyzing how each industry affects: 1) the environmental balance sheet for employing the region’s labor force while remaining under the greenhouse gas emission ceilings set forth in federal, state and local goals, 2) the social balance sheet for providing the region’s labor force with wages that support a basic standard of living.

Energy enables workers to add value to the economy. Consumption of energy by industry and concomitant greenhouse gas emissions are essential prerequisites for the jobs of most workers in Los Angeles County’s labor force.  This analysis documents the relationship between environmental impacts and job opportunities in Los Angeles in the context of energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and future urban sustainability.

Project Purpose

The purpose for this project is to identify industry development and job growth options that will make the region more environmentally and socially sustainable. This baseline profile of Los Angeles County industries uses three dimensions of sustainability: greenhouse gas emissions, economic viability based on size and growth, and social sustainability based on wages for workers. This inclusive framework for assessing sustainability draws on the concept of three pillars of sustainable development that was put forward by the United Nations Brundtland Commission in 1987.

Emission reduction targets for both the United States and California converge on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 83 percent in 2050.  The baseline evidence presented in this report indicates that the amount of energy consumed by Los Angeles’ industries has remained roughly constant and has not yet shifted into the steep downward trajectory required to meet 2050 goals.

Local government can help achieve the goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by making land use decisions and enacting development policies that encourage a regional industry structure that adds growing value to the economy and employs growing numbers of workers while decreasing amounts of greenhouse gases released. Information in this report can be used in assessing trade-offs for achieving both social and environmental sustainability.