Center for Law, Energy, & the Environment

The Center for Law, Energy, & the Environment (CLEE) believes solving our most pressing environmental challenges requires actionable research, training, and engagement to accelerate the implementation of solutions.

Our Mission: 

CLEE tackles climate change and other environmental challenges at the local to global scale through the development and implementation of equitable and effective legal and policy solutions. Our expert staff leverages the world’s leading public research university to engage community leaders, government, business, and other stakeholders; to lead timely and practical research initiatives; and to train leaders to take action on our most pressing environmental problems.

Our Values:

  • Pragmatism: CLEE focuses on answering “how” questions and implementing timely and practical climate and environmental solutions 
  • Collaboration: CLEE convenes policymakers, stakeholders, and other interested parties to tackle complex problems 
  • Integration: CLEE builds expert multidisciplinary teams to solve problems 
  • Equity: CLEE is committed to representing and including diverse perspectives to design and implement equitable solutions 
  • Experience: CLEE’s experienced team of government leaders and experts brings invaluable practical knowledge to our work

Recent Publications

A record of all CLEE reports is available here.

Offshore Wind & Community Benefits Agreements in California: CBA Examples

April 2024

Report cover with wind turbines in the background. Blue banner at the top reads: "Title reads: "OFFSHORE WIND & Community Benefits Agreements IN CALIFORNIA"California’s goal of achieving 25 gigawatts of offshore wind electricity by 2045 will help the State meet its carbon neutrality target and will also have transformative effects on the State’s economy and communities. Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) are tools that can enable local communities to have a voice in the development of new projects and ensure that the state’s transition to offshore wind creates sustainable, equitable economic opportunity, and local investment. CLEE’s report, Offshore Wind & Community Benefits Agreements in California: CBA Examples, highlights the community-oriented measures and CBAs in California’s existing offshore wind leases and presents select CBA examples and community benefits provisions from the real estate and manufacturing sectors, as well as from east coast and UK wind farm projects. These examples can provide important models and lessons for offshore wind development in California. The report also lifts up important considerations and elements—such as CBA structure, process and representation, and oversight and accountability—that can help ensure future California CBAs are rooted in impacted communities and reflect stakeholders’ values and needs. 

Watch our Lunch & Learn Webinar, “California Offshore Wind & Community Benefits Agreements: CBA Examples,” here

Case Studies: City Public & Curbside Charging Strategies

March 2024Report cover for policy brief on EV charging strategies. Top of cover includes report title, CLEE logo, date, and initiative title. Bottom of report includes an image of EV charging stations.

As California and other states transition to one hundred percent zero-emission new vehicle (ZEV) sales by 2035, local governments will play a crucial role in addressing inequities in the ZEV transition. Curbside and public right-of-way (PROW) locations are a key venue for city governments to lead electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure development and deliver a more equitable charging network for residents. Publicly accessible areas may provide particularly useful charging options for residents in underserved communities who are likely to lack access to charging in private driveways or garages, in multifamily dwelling parking lots, or at workplaces.

Our case study report, informed by interviews with city leaders and EV charging project directors, gathers insights from city programs that are leading efforts to expand charging infrastructure in the PROW. This policy brief is intended to guide local leaders as they plan and execute public EV charging infrastructure development with a focus on equitable investment.

Read the report: Case Studies: City Public & Curbside Charging Strategies

California’s 2021 Year in Fire: Fire and Resilience Impacts Beyond Acres Burned

February 2024Cover of California's Year in Fire 2021 Report. Top includes report title, brief description, and date. Bottom includes graphic of wildfire and organization logos.

How are wildfires impacting California, and how are those impacts evolving? A wide variety of wildfire impacts are either not tracked or not reported, thereby limiting our ability to make informed decisions in wildfire mitigation and recovery efforts. And this truncated access to essential information and data has the potential to lead us to unsustainable solutions; for example, if we judge wildfire impacts by the number of acres burned each year and focus primarily on reducing that number, the rational response might be to bolster fire suppression. To do so, however, would ignore a wide range of other social and ecological impacts and the opportunity to improve overall ecological and community health and resilience.

The California’s Year in Fire project, in partnership with the Climate & Wildfire Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, advances a framework for a more complete picture of evolving impacts and consequences, and provides more robust data points to inform meaningful solutions.

Read the report: California’s 2021 Year in Fire: Fire and Resilience Impacts Beyond Acres Burned

January 2024Charging up the Central Coast: Policy solutions to improve electric vehicle charging access in Watsonville cover image of an electric vehicle plugged in at a charging station

California’s goal to eliminate internal combustion engine sales by 2035 poses challenges for lower- and moderate-income residents, hindering their access to electric vehicles (EVs). Barriers include limited EV charging stations, exacerbated by lower home ownership and inadequate grid infrastructure in lower-income communities.

To address this, UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE) partnered with the City of Watsonville. Due to its location, demographics, and ambitious policy goals, Watsonville represents a potential model and case study for other cities around the state grappling with how to boost EV charging infrastructure. CLEE conducted stakeholder interviews and a convening in Watsonville in May 2023, and developed a set of policy recommendations for both state and local entities to accelerate investment in EV charging infrastructure in Watsonville, which could inform other cities facing similar challenges and seeking to meet state targets and residents’ needs.

Read the report: Charging up the Central Coast: Policy solutions to improve electric vehicle charging access in Watsonville

Five Guiding Principles for Effective Voluntary Agreements: A Case Study on VAs for Water and Habitat in California’s Bay-Delta Watershed

January 2024Five Guiding Principles for Effective Voluntary Agreements cover image of a bird's eye view of California's Bay-Delta Watershed

California has increasingly emphasized efforts to develop voluntary agreements (VAs) with water users as a means of achieving regulatory goals in certain watersheds. In theory, a VA can combine the protectiveness of a regulatory backstop with the creativity and flexibility of a negotiated deal to produce outcomes as good as, or better than, those achievable through strict application of regulatory requirements alone. However, reality has not always measured up to this ideal. This policy paper uses the Bay-Delta watershed as a case study to inform five principles to guide the appropriate use and evaluation of VAs.

Read the report: Five Guiding Principles for Effective Voluntary Agreements: A Case Study on VAs for Water and Habitat in California’s Bay-Delta Watershed

CLEE 2023 Snapshot Annual Report

Blue background with annual report cover. Berkeley building photo in the center with flowers.Every year, we take some time to reflect on CLEE’s mission and what we have accomplished towards that end. Our 2023 Snapshot report showcases our work over the past year and our strides in three strategic areas:

  • Actionable Research: Developing and disseminating research that directly informs and influences policy and practice.
  • Training and Education: Equipping current and future environmental leaders with the knowledge and skills to make a difference.
  • Communication and Engagement: Nurturing the continued growth of an informed and engaged community. 

These are the pillars of our new strategic plan, providing a structure for building on CLEE’s 18 years of expertise and experience. Your partnership and support have been instrumental in our journey and will remain so in the months and years to come. The challenges we face are daunting, but we are optimistic that together, we can create an even more meaningful impact.

Please join us in celebrating our achievements and recommitting to the pursuit of sustainable and equitable environmental solutions.

Read the CLEE Snapshot Annual Report here, or download a copy.

International Monetary Fund Reform

November 2023International Monetary Fund Report for Climate Resilience cover image of a sprouting plant

CLEE’s new report, “International Monetary Fund Reform for Climate Resilience,” describes how the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a multilateral institution charged with maintaining global economic stability and growth, can help steer the international community toward a more sustainable economic future.

The report analyzes how current IMF lending and advising practices inadvertently worsen the climate crisis and the associated financial risk, and it outlines a comprehensive approach to address these challenges and overcome political, financial, technical, and institutional barriers to action.

Read the report: International Monetary Fund Reform

A Heavy Lift: Policy Solutions to Accelerate Deployment of Zero-Emission Cargo Handling Equipment at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and Beyond

November 2023

Policy report cover in dark blue with a picture of freight/cargo equipment and the report title and authors. Information included below.The movement of goods through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is a major source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the L.A. region. The South Coast Air Quality Management District has reported that the Ports are “the single largest fixed source of air pollution in Southern California.” And neighboring communities—predominantly low-income communities of color—bear the brunt of this pollution, suffering from smog and toxic air pollution from port equipment.

This new report surveys the biggest obstacles to speedy electrification, including inadequate grid and charging infrastructure, evolving zero-emission technology for cargo handling equipment, and fear among communities and workers of job loss and of increased emissions from expanded port activities. The report also presents policy solutions to get around these obstacles.

Read the report: A Heavy Lift: Policy Solutions to Accelerate Deployment of Zero-Emission Cargo Handling Equipment at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and Beyond

Getting to Implementation: The Status of Local Climate Action in California

November 2023

Policy report cover, picturing pink sunset hues over the city of Berkeley and the Bay. White large text reads 'Getting to Implementation,' with yellow smaller text underneath that reads 'The Status of Local Climate Action in California.'

California’s local governments, which include cities, counties, and special districts, play a pivotal role in shaping the State’s transition to a decarbonized economy. However, jurisdictions across the state have varying levels of success in implementing climate policies and programs. CLEE’s new report, Getting to Implementation: The Status of Local Climate Action in California, summarizes the results of a statewide survey on local governments’ efforts to address climate change, conducted in partnership with the Institute for Local Government(opens in a new tab) (ILG).

The California Local Government Climate Activity Survey, which was open from April to May 2023, gathered information on existing efforts to address climate change, opportunities for strategic climate policy and planning, and barriers to the timely implementation of climate solutions. The survey was designed to help assess the current status of climate action planning efforts and policy implementation, identify opportunities and barriers to move from planning to implementation, and increase understanding of resource constraints, barriers, and opportunities to advance action across a range of policy areas.

The report authors want to thank Next 10 for their support and partnership on this project.

Read the report: Getting to Implementation: The Status of Local Climate Action in California

Recharge net metering (ReNeM) is a novel, cost-effective management strategy to incentivize groundwater recharge

October 2023

First page of publication titled, 'Recharge net metering (ReNeM) is a novel, cost-effective management strategy to incentivize groundwater recharge.' Full publication PDF linked below.

Groundwater basins are mismanaged throughout California and the world, with dire economic, social, and environmental consequences. Managed aquifer recharge is emerging as an important method for bringing groundwater budgets into balance. However, although the best sites for recharge are often located on private property, property owners typically are not incentivized to invest in groundwater projects for the benefit of the basin. To address this gap, our team is supporting the development of recharge net metering (ReNeM), a new incentive structure that compensates private entities for operating groundwater recharge projects on their land. 

CLEE led a team of co-authors from UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz to publish an economic analysis of ReNeM in Nature Water, titled “Recharge net metering (ReNeM) is a novel, cost-effective management strategy to incentivize groundwater recharge.” The article showcases ReNeM’s affordability and cooperative promise; it provides water managers with a method for understanding ReNeM’s financial implications; and it enables expansion of this new approach to groundwater management elsewhere. 

Read the article: Recharge net metering (ReNeM) is a novel, cost-effective management strategy to incentivize groundwater recharge, Nature Water

Comment Letter re: U.S. Department of Energy Responsible Carbon Management Initiative

September 2023

Screenshot of CLEE comment letter with text. Comment letter linked below.

On August 11, 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the launch of the Responsible Carbon Management Initiative, outlining principles for industry developers to abide by, providing framework for the prioritization of “safety, environmental stewardship, accountability, community engagement, and societal benefits in carbon management projects.” (DOE) In an official comment on the initiative responding to their “Notice of Intent and Request for Information Regarding Launching a Responsible Carbon Management Initiative,” Ken Alex, Director of Project Climate, along with CLEE Research Fellows Shivani Shukla and Gil Damon, urge the DOE to consider methane in the design of the Initiative.

Read our comment letter: Comment Letter re: U.S. Department of Energy Responsible Carbon Management Initiative


Electric Vehicle Batteries: A Guidebook for Responsible Corporate Engagement Throughout the Supply Chain

September 2023

Cover Page Title: CEVA Electric Vehicle Batteries A Guidebook for Responsible Corporate Engagement Throughout the Supply Chain September 2023 // Description: batteries connected by orange wiresThe Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance (opens in a new tab)(CEVA), led by Ceres, is a collaborative group of companies focused on accelerating the transition to EVs. Our new report for CEVA, in partnership with Ceres, offers recommendations for major corporate EV fleet purchasers for how they can help ensure EV supply chain sustainability. It summarizes the market status of the batteries, U.S. policy context, and key initiatives for improvement.

Access the full report here: Electric Vehicle Batteries: A Guidebook for Responsible Corporate Engagement Throughout the Supply Chain

Read more about our larger initiative here: Building a Sustainable Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain

Offshore Wind & Community Benefits Agreements in California: An Introduction

June 2023

Report cover. Links to readable report.Developers and communities in California have an opportunity to ensure that offshore wind energy and infrastructure projects empower and uplift communities by negotiating and implementing robust Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs). A Community Benefits Agreement, or CBA, is a legally binding, enforceable contract signed by project developers and community groups or coalitions of groups. CBAs can help create space for residents to have a voice in the future of their communities and can expand economic opportunity and make development more equitable. CBAs can also increase transparency and enforceability of outcomes, boost coalition building, and clarify outcomes. CLEE’s Issue Brief, Offshore Wind & Community Benefits Agreements in California: An Introduction, examines Community Benefits Agreements and explores how they might be relevant in the California offshore wind context.

Read the report: Offshore Wind & Community Benefits Agreements in California: An Introduction

The Future of California Consumer Energy Finance: Strategies to Improve Program Performance and Accelerate Building Decarbonization

June 2023

The Future of CA consumer energy finance report cover. Links to reportAmong all the sectors California leaders need to address to achieve statewide carbon neutrality by 2045(opens in a new tab), existing buildings (which are responsible for over 10 percent of state emissions)—in particular existing residential structures—are among the most difficult to decarbonize. The state has established a range of different programs to address the problem, including a number of appliance-specific and whole-building retrofit subsidy programs, but public funds are inadequate to cover all the needed upgrades. Our report, The Future of California Energy Finance, a collaboration between CLEE and the Energy Institute at Haas(opens in a new tab), considers the future of California energy finance and lays out strategies to supplement and improve the reach of California’s consumer financing programs.

Looking Forward: A Guide to Climate Risk Scenario Analysis Design for California’s Insurance Regulator

April 2023

Looking FOrward report cover

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.

Managing Water Scarcity: A Framework for Fair and Effective Water Right Curtailment in California

April 2023

Managing Scarcity report cover

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, 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.

Stakeholder Engagement in California Offshore Wind: A Summary from CLEE’s 2022 Convenings and a 2023 Outlook

March 2023

Cover photo of report showing offshore wind turbine

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.