How one university’s environmental initiative is transforming Los Angeles—and setting the standard for sustainability efforts around the world
For JR DeShazo, director of UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation, research and technology are essential components of environmental progress, but not sufficient on their own. To meet its goals, the Grand Challenge needs local governments—and communities and corporations—to support systemic change. “The innovation that we see happening in climate change, in water, renewable energy, electric vehicles and the adoption of those technologies is always accompanied by, and spurred by, a set of public policies,” DeShazo said.
UCLA has long been a partner for LA government, at both the city and county level, in developing sustainability strategies. Since the Grand Challenge began, that role has only increased. Such policies include efforts to expand the number of electric vehicle charging stations in Los Angeles County. Another policy developed by DeShazo’s team encourages businesses to install solar panels, and sell excess power to Los Angeles Water and Power.
These efforts extend beyond LA city government. DeShazo cites many forward-thinking California-wide policies that UCLA has helped shape and implement over the last decade or so, including rebates that incentivize Californians of all income levels to adopt electric vehicles. Examples like these, he said, demonstrate how local initiatives can catalyze novel solutions and policy change at the state, national and international levels. Urban centers—which face the gravest environmental challenges but also nurture the resources for groundbreaking innovation—are laboratories for tackling these issues. “Cities are on the front lines,” DeShazo said.
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