CA delegates bring big agenda to climate talks

paris_eiffel_tower_climateWith an outsized delegation from California in attendance, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change began its work toward what environmentalists expect will be a significant new framework for policy.

Although “it remains to be seen whether the gathering of 150 world leaders near Paris will achieve the target of limiting rising global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this century,” as the Los Angeles Times observed, Gov. Jerry Brown was poised to hit his own mark — a battery of 21 appearances over seven days. According to the Times, Brown’s itinerary included “a discussion about California’s renewable-energy efforts, a keynote speech at a session with climate scientists about research and policy, and a talk on how China and California are cooperating to curb air pollution and promote clean technology.”

Setting an agenda

Those in attendance with Gov. Brown expected that the state’s protracted effort to implement a strict emissions policy could make it a sort of stalking horse for a broader federal agenda. Dan Kammen, an energy professor at UC Berkeley in the California delegation, suggested to National Public Radio that “getting a lead actor like California really helps the federal government see what the options are, see what the hurdles are likely to be.”

The state has made far greater strides than others in pushing climate regulations, including the first regime in the U.S. for capping carbon emissions and regulating a market for credits among emitters. But setbacks this year suggested that lawmakers may have begun to find an upper bound to environmental restrictions on energy use. “Brown and Democratic leaders were forced to drop a mandate to cut California’s oil use in half by 2030 amid heavy oil industry lobbying,” the Orange County Register recalled. Nevertheless, legislators did pass, and Brown signed, laws “requiring the state to boost renewable electricity use to 50 percent and double energy efficiency in existing buildings by 2030.”

The economic game

On the strength of these policies alone, the Golden State’s delegates will not be starved for attention in Paris. They hope to parlay the friendly audience into gaining some advantages that could help tip the balance in Sacramento further in their favor. Central to the delegation’s plans for putting California center stage: finding economic leverage. Already, leading Californians have made public commitments to boost alternative energies. Bill Gates, for instance, recently announced “a new, multibillion fund to support green energy technology, with nearly a third of its members from California,” as the Sacramento Bee reported.

“Framing greenhouse gas reduction requirements as a business proposition is significant to [state Senate President Pro tem Kevin] de León and other Democratic lawmakers. While many conservatives argue that the strict emissions regulations hurt businesses, de León and other Democrats argue a growing clean technology sector creates jobs,” the paper added.

Bringing in business

In a call with reporters, de León bluntly noted that one key aim of the California delegation to Paris was to return with significant investment capital. They’ve ensured that industry leaders came along for the ride, with representation from California’s utilities on hand and in the mix.

On the same call, state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, told reporters “she’s looking forward to serving on a panel about transportation policy alongside representatives from Vermont, the United Kingdom, Pacific Gas & Electric and the automaker BMW,” according to the The Desert Sun. PG&E sent four top officers to Paris, including Corporation Chairman, CEO and President Tony Earley. “PG&E’s leaders will speak during multiple events at the two-week summit,” SolarServer noted. The energy utility, California’s largest, has pledged its support for the state’s new target of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.



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