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.

In the News

California’s Drought Reckoning Could Offer Lessons for the West
(1/11/22) Nell Green Nylen in The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Bakersfield Californian

Paper records and steel vaults: Can California water rights enter the digital age?
(12/27/21) Michael Kiparsky in the Los Angeles Times

Calif. law will turn banana peels into renewable energy
(12/20/21) Ken Alex in Energywire

Uncovering what really happened to the Los Angeles streetcar system
Ethan Elkind in ABC7

Years of Delays, Billions in Overruns: The Dismal History of Big Infrastructure
Ethan Elkind in the New York Times

Citing climate risks, California is denying fracking permits in droves
(11/23/21) Ken Alex in SF Chronicle

What’s in Store as Beijing Takes on Climate Change?
(11/22/21) Ken Alex in The Epoch Times

$1.2 trillion infrastructure bill could supercharge San Diego’s envisioned rail expansion
(11/15/21) Ethan Elkind in San Diego Union Tribune

See our complete list of media mentions here.

October 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 2021

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 2021

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

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

In 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

California’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.

January 2021

Building towards Decarbonization

California’s drive toward statewide carbon neutrality by 2045 will hinge on shifting as many energy sources and fuels to electricity as possible. Accordingly, transitioning buildings from natural gas to electricity is among the state’s highest priorities for the coming decade.
To identify challenges and solutions to this transition and the high-priority communities in which state leaders should target policy and investment support, CLEE convened a group of building decarbonization experts in September 2020. Our new report, Building toward Decarbonization, highlights a set of criteria for high-priority communities including those with the least financial resources and the most to gain from improved air quality; those currently investing in new building construction; those with existing gas infrastructure already in need of replacement; those with an expressed willingness to transition; and those rebuilding from recent wildfires.

December 2020

Capturing Opportunity 

California has enacted ambitious climate goals, including a statewide carbon neutrality target by 2045. While much of the required greenhouse gas reductions will come from clean technology and emission reduction programs, meeting these targets will necessitate new methods of actively removing carbon from the atmosphere and capturing difficult-to-mitigate emissions, including via technologies broadly known as engineered carbon removal. These processes — such as carbon capture and sequestration from industrial and fossil fuel facilities, biomass energy production with carbon capture, and direct air capture of atmospheric carbon — can complement nature-based solutions but are mostly still in the early development stages

To address key barriers to engineered carbon removal, CLEE convened a group of state energy and environmental regulators, carbon removal project experts and developers, and advocates to discuss state priorities for engineered carbon removal deployment and policy needs to advance those priorities. Our report, Capturing Opportunity, identifies a suite of high-priority policy solutions.

December 2020

Redefining Value and Risk in Agriculture

In June 2020, the Berkeley Food Institute and UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment convened farmers, policy experts, advocates, investors, and other stakeholders in the farming community for a virtual roundtable on public-private solutions to advance regenerative agriculture. We agreed on the problem, yet our diverse perspectives necessitated discussion of the broad range of potential and existing solutions. From reforming crop insurance and promoting regenerative practices to implementing policies that prioritize equity, explore these recommendations and more in Redefining Value and Risk in Agriculture. 

December 2020

Insuring Extreme Heat Risks

Extreme heat is a leading climate-related health risk, responsible for thousands of deaths and hospitalizations per year in the United States, a number that will grow significantly this century. Local governments are developing resilience plans that include comprehensive extreme heat elements to help address the expansive risks posed by extreme heat, including not just physical health but also mental health, educational success, birth outcomes, worker productivity, transportation networks, and utility infrastructure. But extreme heat impacts are especially diffuse and difficult to address, and they disproportionately affect vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. CLEE’s new report, Insuring Extreme Heat Risks, studies the potential for insurance and other financial risk-transfer mechanisms to help local governments respond to and mitigate the extreme heat risk they will face with increasing regularity in coming decades.

September 2020

The California Roadmap

The increasingly clear impacts of climate change, the growing urgency of social justice movements, and the COVID-19 pandemic are all demonstrating how environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues shape local and international economies. California, as one of the largest economies in the world and a hub of innovation in business as well as climate policy, is uniquely poised to lead the push for greater consideration of ESG issues.
CLEE’s Climate Risk Initiative, led by Dave Jones, has partnered with the Principles for Responsible Investment on a policy roadmap to spark this effort. The California Roadmap includes recommendations for state policymakers, public pension funds, and private investors to better integrate ESG issues in their investment decision-making. The recommendations, ranging from corporate reporting of climate-related risks to ESG-related disclosure for publicly financed projects, promote financial health and stability for California governments, companies, public employees, and private investors. They also offer California public and private sector leaders an opportunity to lead the nation in another urgent area of public policy.


Recent Publications