Originally posted December 20, 2020 by the Schwarzenegger Institute. Article is re-shared and edited with permission for this audience.
Last month, the Schwarzenegger Institute partnered with Stanford University’s Energy Modeling Forum to host a joint Symposium on Climate Change Policy and Transportation. This Symposium was a two-day event and is the second in a series of continued collaboration. A main focus of the event was sharing advice directed to the incoming Biden/Harris administration, in addition to policymakers in California, as the incoming president refines his climate change strategy.
Researchers making virtual presentations included Andrew Burke (UC Davis), Noel Crisostomo (CEC), Susan Dexter (USC), Lew Fulton (UC Davis), Genevieve Giuliano (USC), Amber Mahone (E3), Matteo Muratori (NREL) and Michael Wara (Stanford). Others who participated in the organization of the Symposium or who served as session chairs included: Conyers Davis (USC), Francisca Martinez (USC), Mike Mastrandrea (Carnegie/Stanford), J.R. DeShazo (UCLA) and Mahta Moghaddam (USC).
The Symposium also included policymakers and climate champions who shared their work and thoughts on what is needed, both research and policy-wise, to achieve the next set of environmental goals. Participants included former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Los Angeles Councilmember Kevin de León (CD-14), State Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (AD-56) and former State Senator Fran Pavley.
Day One: An Appeal for Forward-Thinking Strategies
Former Governor Schwarzenegger kicked off the event by emphasizing the importance of phasing out fossil fuel vehicles and switching to alternative fuels. He emphasized that climate change is the result of greenhouse gas emissions, which are one form of pollution. He noted, however, the burning of fossil fuels also generates other types of air pollution that need to be discussed as much as GHGs and climate change, because of the other types of harm they cause.
Governor Schwarzenegger expressed a passionate plea to urgently engage all major constituencies in California, including the environmental justice, diversity, regulatory and business communities, in designing and implementing a forward-looking energy and environmental policy architecture.
Later in the first day, other prominent environmental policy makers joined the event to talk about their recent work and environmental goals. Schwarzenegger Institute Global Director Conyers Davis chaired a fireside chat with Councilmember Kevin de León and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, who spoke about their roles as environmental leaders.
Assemblymember Garcia talked about the lithium supply in Imperial County, specifically Coachella Valley. He stated that the development of lithium mines will create economic opportunities for the people who live in the region, where the unemployment rate is currently about 25 percent.
Councilmember de León discussed the future of zero emission vehicles. He stressed the importance of how we plan the zero emission infrastructure moving forward. Part of that is being aware of the barriers for people of color and of lower socioeconomic status, in part because they have less consumer choice. Ensuring zero emission options are available for everyone will make a huge impact on the fight against climate change.
Day Two: The Struggle between Transportation and Pollution
During the second day, former California State Senator Fran Pavley and Schwarzenegger Institute Deputy Chief of Staff Francisca Martinez presented on the Legislative Perspectives of Governor Newsom’s Zero-Emissions Vehicle Executive Order. Senator Pavley began her presentation by linking vehicle emissions to California’s increasing air pollution levels and the threat this poses to communities across the state. She focused on the challenges and opportunities of achieving California’s transportation goals.
One of the key points was that cooperation from all sectors is critical to achieving a goal that all new car sales being zero emissions vehicles by 2035. Although challenging, this presents California with a great opportunity to reposition itself as a worldwide leader in innovative, clean transportation and fully transition away from fossil fuels.
Throughout the course of the two days, many other topics were discussed about electrification and policy analysis. Researchers also examined the strategies and costs of moving California’s transportation system to producing little to no carbon dioxide. There was an important conversation on how California will work towards carbon neutrality. Additionally, there was a panel on zero-emission heavy-duty trucks and another presentation on integrating 100% zero emission vehicles with clean energy.
Going Forward: Maintaining Momentum and Reaching Policymakers
The USC Schwarzenegger Institute and Stanford University’s Energy Modeling Forum are enthusiastic to continue collaborating and look forward to hosting another Symposium.
Adam Rose of the USC Price School of Public Policy co-organized the event with John Weyant of the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum.
Rose said, “We are already planning the next joint Symposium, tentatively scheduled for mid-April 2021. We are considering some of the suggestions for future inquiry emphasized during the event last November, including equity/environmental justice, employment impacts, and improved communication of direct benefits and co-benefits of climate change policy. Both organizers, as well as the speakers, are eager to provide details of research and policy advice provided during the November Symposium to decision-makers in California and Washington DC, and welcome inquiries.”
Symposium co-organizer John Weyant of Stanford’s Energy Modeling Forum added, “I enthusiastically support the plan to conduct another joint on-line Symposium with the USC Schwarzenegger Institute in April. I also look forward to inviting participants to Stanford for an in-person sequel to that Symposium as soon as it becomes safe to hold such public gatherings.”
Director of the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of terrorism Events (CREATE)
Governor Downey Professor of State and Global Policy
Chairman, USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy
Margaret and John Ferraro Chair in Effective Local Government
Director, METRANS Transportation Center