With all of the resources that went into Greenbuild 2016, planning the Women in Green breakfast series unfortunately took a backseat. It had been over a year since this group gathered, but with the flurry of questions and concerns about the future of climate and energy policy that arose after the November election, Annie Argento, our colleague Melissa Gutierrez-Sullivan at Flourish Consulting, and our friends at USGBC-LA relaunched the breakfast series at the end of 2016 with an all-star panel of climate policy champions featuring Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board and the ultimate woman in green; Lauren Faber-O'Connor, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer at the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; and Aimee Barnes, recently appointed as Senior Advisor to California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
The discussion, expertly moderated by Aimee Barnes, was inspirational as the panelists shared anecdotes from their careers; was realistic about the current harsh political landscape; and believe it or not, left many feeling less skeptical than they did when they walked in the door. And needless to say, all 150 attendees left with a sense of gratitude for leadership in LA and California and the commitment to always fight for environmental protection.
Mary Nichols spoke to her early career as one of the first female journalists at the Wall Street Journal, her enrollment in the first class at Yale Law School to admit women, and decades of fighting for clean air, clean water, and better climate policy at the state and national levels. Lauren Faber-O'Connor gave advice to young professionals in the audience about the dividends paid by seeking out fellowships and leadership on boards early in a career.
Both panelists were realistic about the danger of appointing climate change denialists to key environmental posts, yet also shed light on political transitions and policy reversals based on their experience with the Schwartznegger-Brown transition. There were humorous and cynical moments such as the advice “go drinking” in order to cope with climate denialists in cabinet positions, but overall, the discussion left attendees with a sense of optimism. The City of Los Angeles will continue to be a leader in fighting climate change through its policies around energy efficiency in buildings, electric vehicle charging stations, and thoughtful implementation of LA's comprehensive sustainability program, the pLAn. In fact, the City recently announced that it has achieved two-thirds of all 2017 goals early. And, earlier this week after the administration advanced their effort to undo Obama era climate policies, Mayor Garcetti stated, "No matter what happens in Washington, Los Angeles will uphold the obligation to preserve the health of our planet, protect our most vulnerable residents and create a 21st century economy -- and working with my fellow climate mayors, we will continue doing our part to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement in cities across the country." And certainly California is committed to its role as a global leader in environmental policy from fuel emissions standards to green building codes and will continue to work with other states and countries to commit to bold CO2 emissions reductions.
The next event in the Women in Green breakfast series is Friday, April 14th. The plan is to highlight some local leaders and organizations here in Los Angeles who are leading the charge on creating sustainable and just communities and how those in the green building movement can be good allies. For more information, click here.