Center for Law, Energy & the Environment

The Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE) channels the expertise of the Berkeley Law community – faculty, staff, and students – into pragmatic, creative policy solutions to critical environmental and energy challenges.




The past year has starkly highlighted the systemic racism and racial injustice interwoven into the fabric of this country. We must not only condemn it; we must act to change it.

The university has a public interest mission; the legal profession is responsible for seeking justice; and our center and our program are focused on ensuring a sustainable world for all. Working at the intersection of those values, we must humbly look inside and examine if we are doing all we can to combat systemic racism, because the answer is almost certainly no. Yet we cannot successfully combat climate change and environmental degradation without addressing the inextricably linked roots and consequences of systemic racial injustice.

Because words without actions ring hollow, we are engaging in a process to develop a concrete action plan addressing our research, program, and curriculum. We will reach outside our organization for diverse input in order to finalize our action plan and move immediately to implementation.

November 2022
Cars, buses, and trucks produce approximately one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.  Although global sales of zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) for passenger cars have increased an average of 50 percent per year since 2015, consumers need confidence in reliable, accessible, and affordable charging and refueling infrastructure. Deploying innovative demonstration projects and developing supportive policies will be crucial to achieving a successful ZEV transition worldwide.
CLEE and TDA developed a brief to highlight case studies of successful electric vehi­cle charging infrastructure deployment around the world. These jurisdictions are charting the way on developing comprehensive planning and regulatory frameworks that support ZEV adoption and infrastructure. The brief highlights innovative models and partnerships that are increasing ZEV fleet adoption, public and private charging deployment, and public aware­ness of the reduced total cost of ownership of driving ZEVs. The case studies capture work happening in: California (United States), Rotterdam (Netherlands), British Columbia (Canada), Portugal, Costa Rica, and Ghana.

November 2022

Funding San Francisco Climate Action 

In December 2021, San Francisco issued a Climate Action Plan (CAP) that envisions an ambitious and equitable climate future for the city. The CAP details emissions reduction strategies across six categories: energy supply, building decarbonization, transportation and land use, housing, green infrastructure, and waste reduction. The CAP puts forth 159 actions to achieve net-zero emissions citywide by 2040 while rooting decisions in racial and social equity, economic opportunity, public health, and community resilience.

These actions range from investing in active transportation infrastructure and increasing affordable housing near transit to decarbonizing buildings and supporting green construction apprenticeship programs, with the potential to solidify San Francisco as an innovative and ambitious climate leader while reducing citywide emissions substantially.

October 2022

Clean Takeoff: Policy Options for Sustainable Aviation in California

What actions can California policy makers take to help decarbonize the state aviation sector? CLEE’sReport cover showing airplanes at an airport new report, Clean Takeoff: Policy Solutions to Promote Sustainable Aviation in California, describes opportunities to advance sustainable aviation in California.

Airplane travel is responsible for more than 2 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions, with non-CO₂ emissions raising the total climate impact further. While no existing zero-emission technologies can power all flights today, sustainable aviation fuel represents the most promising immediate solution to reduce emissions from aviation and will remain key to decarbonizing long-haul aviation, even in 2050. 

In response, Governor Newsom called for a 20 percent clean fuels target for the aviation sector in July 2022, and the steps described in Clean Takeoff could help the state achieve those goals while maximizing air quality and economic co-benefits in communities near airports and production facilities.

September 2022

Ahead of the Herd: Policy Solutions to Accelerate Livestock Methane Emissions Reduction in California

To achieve state goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2045, California leaders have initiated an ambitious suite of programs to address methane, a climate super-pollutant. Leaders have focused on emissions from livestock, which generate over half of California’s methane – primarily in the state’s dairy sector, the largest in the nation. The state’s dairy and livestock methane programs have made gains in curbing manure emissions, but a need for significant acceleration in both enteric and manure emissions to achieve the 2030 target set by Senate Bill 1383. 
To address these challenges, CLEE and UCLA Law convened state agency, industry, academic, and environmental justice leaders for a discussion of strategies to accelerate livestock methane emission reduction in California while addressing public and environmental health concerns.

August 2022

Implementing SB 743: Design Considerations for Vehicle Miles Traveled Mitigation Bank and Exhange Programs

Our new report, Implementing SB 743: Design Considerations for Vehicle Miles Traveled Bank and Exchange Programs advances these proposals with a set of recommendations for state agencies likeReport cover. Title "Implementing SB 743" and image of freeways in urban landscape. Caltrans (the state agency most likely to be responsible for VMT-inducing projects) and local governments to develop bank and exchange programs that build on their existing environmental mitigation efforts. Recommendations include:

  • A state-level program for state agencies to manage mitigation and select locally appropriate investments, likely based on collaboration between Caltrans and other state transportation and land use agencies
  • Regional-level programs for local and regional agencies to manage mitigation flexibly and efficiently within appropriate geographic limitations—likely managed by Metropolitan Planning Organizations or Regional Transportation Planning Agencies, but potentially run by large cities or counties in some cases
  • Frameworks for analyzing the “additionality” of VMT mitigation investments to ensure that bank and exchange program funds support VMT reductions beyond those that would have occurred anyway
  • Strategies for defining equity in the context of VMT mitigation and integrating equity into the decision-making of a bank or exchange program

The strategies outlined in the report should help inform the decisions that Caltrans and local government leaders across the transportation and land use spheres are making to advance the VMT reduction efforts initiated by the legislature nearly a decade ago.

July 2022

Hot, Cold & Clean: Policy Solutions to Promote Equitable and Affordable Adoption of Heat Pump Retrofits in Existing Buildings

In 2022, the California Energy Commission set out an ambitious target of deploying 6 million heat pumps by 2030. With more than 14 million existing residential homes in the state, more than 75 percent of California’s existing buildings built before 1978, and heat pumps installed in only 6 percent of new construction, the state has a long way to go to meet its goals.

To address this challenge, CLEE and UCLA Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment convened state, local, utility, housing and environmental leaders to develop priority solutions for promoting equitable and affordable adoption of heat pump retrofits in existing buildings.

May 2022

Driving Equity

To achieve state goals of 40 percent greenhouse gas emission reduction (below 1990 levels) by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2045, California must significantly reduce emissions from transportation, which is the single greatest source of statewide (and national) emissions. In 2020, Governor Newsom issued an executive order calling for a complete phase-out of new fossil fuel vehicle sales by 2035, and in April 2022 the California Air Resources Board proposed an update to its Advanced Clean Cars regulation to achieve that target. However, the majority of electric vehicle models on the road are new, relatively high-cost models and the most ubiquitous and convenient charging options are in the garages of single-family homes in wealthier communities. Our new policy report outlines strategies to promote equity in California’s electric vehicle transition.

May 2022

Branching Out

In response to California’s deadly over the past several years, government and private landowners are removing more debris and residual material from forested areas, such as removing dead trees and creating fire breaks. One strategy to improve vegetation management outcomes is to support markets for this residual material through wood products, chips and mulch, or other end uses. To do so, state and local leaders will need to weigh the consequences of various end uses to ensure human and environmental health factors into decision making and to ensure debris removal does not promote additional cutting of “green” forest material, among other considerations. Our new policy report recommends various pathways for establishing a sustainable market for this material while observing parameters on the source and timeframe of the material collection to ensure activities promote wildfire resilience.

Developing Climate Risk Policy for State Procurement and Bond Issuance report coverOctober 2021

Developing Climate Risk Policy for State Procurement and Bond Issuance

California is home to one of the largest economies in the world, and the state plays a direct role in this economy as a steward of assets, a regulator, a revenue generator and service provider, and a direct spender of funds on a range of infrastructure, goods, and services. In light of the risks that climate change poses to state industries and financial institutions, state lawmakers and experts have recently sought to increase knowledge of climate-related risks throughout the state economy. In two new policy notes, CLEE explores potential opportunities to develop climate risk disclosure policy through the lens of state procurement and bond issuance.

July 2021Piloting a Water Rights Information System for California report cover

Piloting a Water Rights Information System for California

California’s complex water management challenges are growing and intensifying. Systemic stressors like the more frequent and severe droughts and floods driven by climate change are only making it harder to respond. Accordingly, California needs to dramatically improve the ability of local, regional, and State entities to make agile and effective water management decisions. We believe doing so will require enhanced understanding of our water resources and how they align with the needs of a range of agencies and stakeholders. Water rights data provide a crucial opportunity for advancing this understanding.

Through a multi-year process of research and engagement, we developed analytical background on how water rights data plays into water management on a broader scale, combined with legal and institutional analysis. Ultimately, we find that a modernized water rights data is feasible, affordable, and can increase clarity for better decision making. Our report, Piloting a Water Rights Information System for California, offers a vision and roadmap for making it a reality.

June 2021Envisioning Offshore Wind for California report cover

Envisioning Offshore Wind for California

Offshore wind could become an essential piece of California’s renewable energy puzzle while delivering on multiple statewide goals, from tackling climate change and addressing environmental justice to building a just transition and unlocking new economic opportunities. But none of these desirable goals can happen without a robust and far-sighted planning process that includes Californians’ diverse interests. 

CLEE’s new report, Envisioning Offshore Wind for California, provides an overview of the challenges and opportunities. The report suggests priority actions to ensure a comprehensive, strategic approach to this new-to-California industry. It builds from input provided during two workshops from a wide range of participants, including local governments, non-profit organizations, labor representatives, fishermen, renewable energy developers, and more. CLEE convened these workshops with the intent of catalyzing broad and open conversations around OSW and determining potential pathways for future state action.


June 2021

Investing in Nature as a Climate Solution report coverInvesting in Nature as a Climate Solution

Some of the most promising, cost-effective climate change solutions are in our own backyards. Trees, plants, soils, and ecosystems like wetlands can store and ultimately bury carbon, helping California and other jurisdictions achieve the “negative emissions” needed to meet long-term carbon neutrality goals. Yet nature-based climate solutions can be difficult to deploy because of various funding and financing barriers, despite the potential for reliable returns for a range of stakeholders. Resource managers and landowners may struggle to connect with the right financing or funding pathways to development. Similarly, investors may lack sufficient information to identify best-fit vehicles and model returns. As a result, despite a rapidly growing understanding of the need to fund nature-based climate and resilience projects, experts have identified a biodiversity funding gap in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

To address these challenges, CLEE and our partners at UCLA Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment issued the new report, Seeding Capital.


March 2021

Priorities for Sonoma County’s Wildfire Settlement Vegetation Management Funds

Priorities for Sonoma County's Wildfire Settlement Vegetation Management Funds report coverIn 2017, the Sonoma Complex Fires burned hundreds of thousands of acres in the county, destroyed over 5,000 structures, and took two dozen lives. After reaching a legal settlement with Pacific Gas & Electric (whose equipment sparked the fires), Sonoma County allocated $25 million of the settlement funds to vegetation management in order to reduce future fire risk and protect ecosystems and agriculture.

The County retained CLEE to gather expert input and prepare recommendations for how to allocate these funds most efficiently and effectively. Considering the long-term and recurring nature of vegetation management, the diversity of County landscapes and ecosystems, and the scale of the need relative to the amount of funds, a range of strategies will be required to leverage the funds into long-term investments and ensure sustainable practices. CLEE convened a group of statewide experts and a group of County stakeholders to identify spending priorities. Our report, Priorities for Sonoma County’s Wildfire Settlement Vegetation Management Funds, outlines these priorities and offers specific strategies for the funds to achieve them. 


February 2021

Data Access for a Decarbonized Grid

Data Access for a Decarbonized Grid report coverCalifornia’s electricity infrastructure is entering a period of profound change, with state leaders striving to achieve 60 percent renewable sources by 2030 and 100 percent zero-carbon power by 2045, while increasingly severe heat waves and wildfires threaten the reliability and resilience of the grid. Developers are introducing a range of flexible grid technologies to meet these challenges. While these technologies are becoming increasingly mainstream and affordable, effective and efficient deployment relies on a key resource—energy data—that can maximize the flexible use of diverse energy resources. Abundant energy data already provide the information needed to operate a modern, flexible grid. However, state regulators, electric utilities, technology developers, and customers face a thicket of regulatory, privacy, and incentive-based challenges to optimizing the generation and management of this data.
To identify solutions to these challenges, CLEE and UCLA Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment convened a group of energy data experts in August 2020. Our new report, Data Access for a Decarbonized Grid, details the challenges facing optimal energy data access and a set of high-priority solutions.

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