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.
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UN asked to investigate ‘human rights violations’ by Chemours(05/09/2023)
Topics: Environmental Law Topic
California’s insurance industry faces significant risks from climate change, including both the transition risks facing all financial institutions as the global economy shifts toward decarbonization and the singular combination of physical risks—wildfire, drought, coastal hazards, extreme heat—that threaten California’s communities and businesses.
CLEE’s report Looking Forward explores the field of climate risk scenario analysis—a key instrument to assess financial risk in projected future scenarios—and makes recommendations for the California Department of Insurance to design scenario analysis exercises and engage California insurance companies in forward-looking risk assessment. The report analyzes precedent and decision-making criteria for structural elements such as “top-down” (regulator-led) versus “bottom-up” (insurer-led) exercises, scope of risks assessed, time horizons, strategic partnerships, and more.
When there is not enough water to satisfy all demands, water must be allocated among competing human and environmental uses. California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is responsible for ensuring that surface water is diverted and used in accordance with state and federal legal requirements and policy priorities. Our new report, Managing Water Scarcity: A Framework for Fair and Effective Water Right Curtailment in California, explains how to bring the SWRCB’s capabilities in line with California’s needs. The report describes the legal context for water right curtailments in California, summarizes the history of curtailment practices in the state, and recommends actions California can take to build an effective framework for curtailment. The SWRCB can implement some of the actions we recommend on its own. But we also recommend swift and decisive legislative action to clarify and enhance the agency’s tools and authority.
CLEE’s March 2023 whitepaper, Stakeholder Engagement in California Offshore Wind, summarizes key themes heard throughout the 2022 stakeholder engagement series about the general planning process, equity and environmental justice priorities, environmental considerations, tribal government input, developer perspectives, and fishing industry input. Examples include requests for greater inclusion and engagement with stakeholders, better transparency and accessibility of data sources that inform decision making, additional studies and data collection, prioritization of community and economic benefits, development of long-term workforce training opportunities, expansion of infrastructure development plans (e.g., transmission), and clarity on permitting requirements, among others.
California to decarbonize its electricity grid
and achieve carbon neutrality. Yet today zero-emission hydrogen is roughly triple the cost of traditional fossil-based hydrogen production. Electrolyzer project developers also face hurdles around producing, storing, transporting, and facilitating cost-effective purchases of their zero-emission hydrogen.
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.
CLEE’s report, Funding San Francisco Climate Action, analyzes funding and financing strategies to generate sufficient revenue for San Francisco’s CAP while advancing equity and ensuring smart implementation.
Drawing on over 50 interviews and two expert workshops with climate finance and policy experts, City leaders, and community stakeholders to understand priorities and best-fit strategies, the report recommends a group of immediate- and medium-term revenue generation mechanisms, alongside a number of priorities for implementing the CAP (such as city staffing and coordination) and ensuring equity (including oversight councils and impact assessments).
What actions can California policy makers take to help decarbonize the state aviation sector? CLEE’s 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.
- Creating an interagency one-stop shop for greenhouse gas, quality, water quality, and other data reporting and technical assistance;
- Updating the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard to better assess life-cycle impacts and additionality of digester projects and support environmental health protections while increasing certainty for operators;
- Accelerating approval of and increasing financial support for new enteric emission reduction strategies.
The California Environmental Quality Act requires government agencies and developers to mitigate the environmental impacts of new discretionary projects, including impacts to transportation. Under new state law and guidelines, many agencies are using VMT, which focuses on total vehicle trip-miles generated by a new project regardless of where they occur or how much traffic they cause, as the new measurement of impact. Mitigating VMT impacts of new projects creates the opportunity—and potentially the need—to conduct mitigation at locations other than the development site. To carry it out, CLEE and others have proposed “bank” and “exchange” programs to manage these capacities. Our new report, Implementing SB 743, advances these proposals with a set of recommendations for state agencies like Caltrans and local governments to develop bank and exchange programs that build on their existing environmental mitigation efforts.
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. As our new report, Hot, Cold & Clean, describes, point of purchase, installation, and financing challenges can stymie deployment. But, the report captures the progress in deploying heat pumps since our 2021 report Building toward Decarbonization and identifies additional policy solutions to overcome remaining barriers.
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, Driving Equity, outlines strategies to promote equity in California’s electric vehicle transition.
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.
To advance this conversation, CLEE convened a small group of experts in late 2021 to discuss opportunities to improve the market for debris material. CLEE’s new policy report, Branching Out: Waste Biomass Policies to Promote Wildfire Resilience and Emission Reduction, recommends various pathways for establishing a sustainable market for this material.