03/21/2013 06:05 pm ET Updated May 21, 2013

From Smog to Sustainability

We Angelenos like to call our city the City of Angels. But when I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, it was more like Smog City.

Back then, the air quality in the LA basin would get so bad we would have the west coast version of snow days -- days that where the air was so thick with a sickly orange and brown haze that recess and P.E. classes were cancelled and we were confined to our classrooms.

Those memories have stuck with me, and I've never wanted my kids and grandkids to grow up like that. That's why environmental policy has been a centerpiece of my career as a public servant and why, when I first become Mayor of Los Angeles in 2005, I set out to make LA the cleanest, greenest big city in America.

Over the last eight years we've worked together to rewrite Los Angeles' environmental future. We have reduced our harmful greenhouse gas emissions by more than any other city in the country. We've quadrupled our use of renewable energy. And we've cut air pollution in half at the Port of Los Angeles, once one of our region's most notorious polluters but now a model of sustainability.

We have also:

• Implemented the first big city Feed-in-Tariff Solar program
• Synchronized every traffic signal in the city
• Increased recycling rates to over 75 percent
• Opened over 650 acres of parkland and launched the 50 Parks Initiative
• Reduced water use by 20 percent
• Installed over 120 new miles of bikeways
• Made the LA River navigable
• Developed a forward-thinking Adaptation Plan

And by the end of my term, we will have:

• Replaced every traffic light with an LED bulb
• Finished installing 140,000 LEDs on our street lights
• Planted 400,000 trees
• Held 7 CicLAvias -- car-free days -- including one from downtown to the beach

I am proud to announce that we are adding a major new accomplishment to our list. Los Angeles will be the first big city in America to kick the coal habit. We are eliminating our dependence on dirty coal plants to power our city.

Getting to this historic point has been a long process. Today, two coal-fired plants provide nearly 40 percent of our city's energy. By no later than 2025, we will stop using one plant and will turn the other into a much smaller natural gas plant with renewable energy capacity.

A new era of clean power is dawning in Southern California, and we are blazing a new trail for the rest of the country to follow. When the second biggest city in America gets off coal, it leaves a footprint on the clean energy market. We're raising the bar for urban environmental politics, and we're urging every city from coast to coast to meet it.

Within twelve years, our investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and combined-cycle natural gas will provide Angelenos with a coal-free, clean, and reliable energy supply.

I'm happy to say that my kids and grandkids will be proud residents of a Los Angeles that is the capital of sustainability, not smog.

Watch new video on the changes HERE