UC Davis: A Robust Presence at Events and in News Coverage of the Global Climate Action Summit

UC Davis joined leaders from around the world for the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco.

Occurring at the midpoint between the 2015 and 2020 UN Climate Change Conferences, the Summit revisited the challenges and opportunities to spur climate action. Governments, businesses, investors, academics, and activists came together to review progress on the historic Paris Agreement. California Gov. Jerry Brown set the stage by announcing California’s most ambitious climate targets to date: achieving carbon neutrality and 100% clean electricity by 2045.

The Summit was also an opportunity for UC Davis to display/demonstrate its status as a top source of independent, academic climate expertise. UC Davis is home to an impressive group of faculty collaborating on climate-change science, mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. This work is coordinated and amplified by a unique set of interdisciplinary hubs—including the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS), the Energy and Efficiency Institute, and the John Muir Institute of the Environment—that collaborate to create one of the most engaged and sustainable campuses in the world. During the week of the Summit, UC Davis hosted five official affiliate events to leverage these resources and catalyze positive change.

The week kicked off on September 10 at the UC Davis Mondavi Center, where the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicines One Health Institute and the California Department of Conservation co-organized a daylong symposium on “Managing Lands in a Changing Climate.” The symposium examined how to strengthen agricultural resilience, food security, and health in the face of climate change. Emphasis was placed on generating positive change through innovative land and resource management at the local, regional, and global levels.

On September 11 and 12 in downtown San Francisco, the Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy (Policy Institute) hosted four half-day sessions, which drew more than 400 attendees. Each session challenged attendees to consider complex and critical issues related to climate, energy, transportation, and public policy: topics on which UC Davis is a leader. (Note: At the links below for each session, you can access session agendas and PDFs of speaker presentations.)

The first session, Climate-Resilient Communities, focused on practical, proactive steps that communities can take to be resilient to climate threats. Speakers included Andrew McAllister of the California Energy Commission, Jill Anderson of Southern California Edison, and Luis Carlos Romo from the State of Sonora, Mexico. Participants discussed solutions along three themes: (1) deriving cost-effective, energy-efficient solutions for historically “undercooled” communities; (2) deploying distributed energy resources to enable resource responsive energy infrastructure management; and (3) rebuilding communities already devastated by climate driven disasters.

The Harnessing the 3 Revolutions in Transportation for Climate Goals session highlighted how shared, automated, and electric vehicles–can help steer communities, states, and countries toward a low carbon future. California Assemblymember Phil Ting began the session with a vision for the 3 revolutions in California and beyond. Panelist Ethan Elkind, Director of the Climate Program and Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at UC Berkeley and UCLA Schools of Law, emphasized the need for autonomous, electric buses in dedicated lanes that could mimic light rail systems at lower cost and help address declining transit ridership. Ellen Greenberg of Caltrans added that “walkability, active mobility, sharing and transit are key for urban development and livable cities.” On the private-sector front, representatives from companies including Lyft, Uber, Zoox, Chariot, and Via commented on the potential for “new mobility” services to transform transportation for the better.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf opened the Regional Transportation Policy Collaboration session. She described how the city is reducing its carbon footprint by implementing sustainability policies at its port and by providing clean (i.e., ultra-low sulfur) diesel for city fleets. The session explored ways in which state and local jurisdictions are working together to reduce emissions from the transportation sector. Models of international collaboration were also discussed.

At the final session, From Ambition to Action in Transportation, representatives from California and Germany discussed how to more effectively cut greenhouse gas emissions from their transportation sectors, which contribute 40% and 20% of emissions of each polity respectively. Panelist Gil Tal, director of the UC Davis Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center, noted that achieving sustainable transportation goals hinges on our ability to close the gap between research and policy.

The university was prominent in news coverage of the Summit and at other Summit events. UC Davis researchers were quoted in more than 50 media outlets, including NPR’s Marketplace, Reuters, and Capital Public Radio. Reflecting the visibility of UC Davis at GCAS, ITS-Davis ranked 10th on the list of  the summit’s “Top Twitter Influencers,” joining the official Twitter accounts of Gov. Jerry Brown and the summit itself.

At the Summit’s China Pavilion, UC Davis China Center for Energy and Transportation (C-CET) Director Yunshi Wang and dignitaries from the respective countries jointly established the China-U.S.-Netherlands Zero Emissions Vehicle Policy Laboratory, with California and the ZEV states as parties. C-CET Director Wang also joined Governor Brown to announce plans for California and China to work together on fuel cells, zero emission vehicles, and other technologies to combat climate change. Giovanni Circella, ITS-Davis director of the Three Revolutions advanced mobility research program, spoke on a panel with Dutch representatives, where he discussed his research showing that ride-hailing is not yet supporting public transportation. Professor and ITS-Davis Director Dan Sperling provided remarks at official affiliate sessions sponsored by the Netherlands Consulate General, the European Commission of the European Union, the Energy Foundation of China, and China EV100.

UC Davis also sent a large delegation to the invitation-only Summit plenaries, including Dan Sperling, Policy Institute Director Austin Brown, 3 Revolutions Policy Director Mollie D’Agostino, and Policy Institute Researcher Hannah Safford.

Climate change is a difficult, major issue that cannot be solved by one event. But convenings like the Global Climate Action Summit—and the targeted affiliate events that accompany them—are essential for keeping up momentum. UC Davis participants were particularly appreciative of the platform the Summit provided to strengthen relationships with colleagues and partners also tackling climate problems. After all, as the Policy Institute’s Brown observed in advance of the Summit, “Working together is humanity’s superpower.”


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