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Mayor Touts "Green" L.A. in Britain

Speaking at a Labor Party gathering, Villaraigosa vows to make the city the most environmentally conscious in the U.S.

September 28, 2006|Janet Stobart | Times Staff Writer

LONDON — On the last day of his first overseas trip, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday told Britain's Labor Party leaders about efforts to turn Los Angeles into "the greenest and cleanest city in America."

His address on the environment and climate change came during a panel discussion of the annual party conference in the northern England city of Manchester. The visit, which began Monday in London, focused on counterterrorism and security and included business and trade discussions. There were also discussions about London's successful bid for the 2012 Olympics. Los Angeles is trying to secure the 2016 Games.

Speaking at the Manchester conference at the invitation of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who visited Los Angeles last month, Villaraigosa pledged to "honor the spirit of Kyoto" and drastically reduce city pollution.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol mandates reduction of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Among major industrial countries, only the United States and Australia have failed to ratify the accord, which commits signatory nations to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases to 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2012.

Repeating an environmental theme that he stresses on visits around Los Angeles and the United States, Villaraigosa touted his city's efforts to curb pollution and create green space.

"I know that in many of your minds L.A. may be more synonymous with smog and sprawl," Villaraigosa told a packed hall. "But we've made a historic commitment to grow and green our port. We're getting 20% of our energy from renewables by 2010, we're planting a million new trees, we're committed to recycling, and we're committed to making L.A. the greenest and cleanest city in America."

London Mayor Ken Livingstone lauded Villaraigosa for the city's "breathtaking innovative technologies" that have led to a significant rate of recycling. "What Antonio has done and achieved in Los Angeles, we will copy here," he vowed.

Villaraigosa was quick to criticize the wider American attitude toward climate change, which Livingstone described as "still in a state of denial."

"My country may be the richest nation on Earth," Villaraigosa said, "and we may have undisputed world military power. But we are also the Earth's leading contributor to greenhouse emissions, and the last six years we've missed the opportunity, I believe we've failed in our responsibility to lead on this issue."

Villaraigosa earned a rousing round of applause when he saluted the Labor Party's efforts to lead the fight against global warming "even when you didn't have the strongest ally in Washington."

In a tribute to former President Clinton, also at the conference to speak on globalization and environmental issues, Villaraigosa said: "In a little while you'll hear from an American who I'm sure will remind us all of what it was like when we had leaders in our nation's capital who actually believed in science. President Clinton may no longer have the keys to the Oval Office, but he holds the authority of a giant on the world stage and is preaching the same message that Labor has been preaching ... that we need to see ourselves as a community, that we all have a responsibility as global citizens, as members of a wider world."

Villaraigosa is expected to arrive back in Los Angeles today before embarking on another overseas trip, to Asia. The mayor will lead a delegation of business leaders and city officials on a 16-day mission to China, South Korea and Japan beginning Oct. 7.

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