From left: Leila Salazar, Amazon Watch; Danielle Fugere, As You Sow; Larissa Koehler, Environmental Defense Fund; Mary Solecki, Environmental Entrepreneurs; Dana Zartner, University of San Francisco; Lisa Ann Pinkerton, moderator and WCS founder and Chairwoman. Photo by Marcela Cabrera Luna.
Cap-and-Trade programs, Electric Vehicles (EV) incentives, and the United States backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement were hot topics at WCS’s recent California Climate Policy panel discussion, hosted at Sandbox Suites in San Francisco. The speakers hailed from both local and global policy backgrounds and ranged from lawyers to activists. Lisa Ann Pinkerton, founder and Chairwoman of Women in Cleantech & Sustainability (WCS) and President of Technica Communications, conducted a dynamic discussion on California’s place amongst its global peers.
Over the summer, legislators approved an extension of California’s signature climate change program known as Cap-and-Trade.
Mary Solecki, Environmental Entrepreneurs - Western States Advocate, defined Cap-and-Trade for the audience. “Cap-and-Trade is an economy-wide price on carbon. It essentially sets a cap on the amount of emissions that can be put into the atmosphere as a whole. That cap declines annually, and companies can trade the allowances - or permits to pollute - amongst themselves.”
Dana Zartner, Associate Professor of International Studies in the School of Law at the University of San Francisco, commented that “California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii are being talked about on the global stage as leaders on the environment, even though the U.S. is no longer much part of the discussion.”
Leila Salazar, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, made an impassioned stand against U.S. climate policy action of late. “The fact that the United States is pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement and rolling back our environmental protections is wrong. We are not in a good place federally. So, it’s up to state and local governments to lead the way on policy. California Governor Jerry Brown is positioning the state and local governments to lead on climate and teaming up with China to do so. China has recently committed to stop selling cars that run on fossil fuels. If they can do it, we can do it too!”
Governor Brown committed California to upholding the Paris Accord even when the United States backed out, extended the Cap-and-Trade program, and authorized millions for electric vehicle incentives. In the same year, he put forth an energy storage initiative and bill that would require California to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2045. That bill did not make it out of the committee.
Dana told the audience, “Cities are well-poised to take the lead on environmental policy. One of the reasons is that cities have a greater ability to work with local corporations to create better environmental policies - and the participation of corporations is necessary.”
In addition to private sector and consumer influence over policy, lawmakers are redoubling their efforts. “Lawyers and courts are having a big moment in halting unjust policies coming out of the White House. California can take the lead on the legal side, and has, indeed, filed numerous lawsuits against the current administration’s policies, including environmental policies,” shared Dana.
The United Kingdom, France, Germany, India, and Norway all aim to sell only electric vehicles in the coming decades. This month, China announced intent to phase out sales of traditional energy vehicles.
California is at the forefront of the U.S. EV market. While other states lag behind California regarding electric vehicle incentives, the private sector has been quick to follow with legacy automotive companies pivoting to mass-manufacture electric vehicles. Danielle Fugere, President and Chief Counsel of As You Sow, commented that private sector EV technology has been incubated by California policy.
Larissa Koehler, attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund - California Clean Energy team, shared that the “transportation sector is by far the largest emitter in California. We want to electrify everything but we need to do it intelligently.” Mary added that "AB118 is a $6 fee on your license plate that funds a $100 million annual clean energy investment fund. Other clean energy investment occurs through the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which is the revenue from Cap & Trade.”
What you can do
All the panelists agreed that each of us can speak up, get educated, support organizations that are on the front lines fighting these fights, and be smart about when we use our energy at home. Check out a few resources below:
By Kelly Ratchinsky
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