UC Davis Hosts Second California Climate Policy Modeling Dialogue

More than 100 of the state’s leading climate policymakers, modelers and stakeholders gathered on the UC Davis campus February 23 to review the current status of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) modeling for the California and examine pathways for achieving the state’s climate goals.

The California Climate Policy Modeling Dialogue featured representatives from every major state agency involved in climate policy, legislative representatives, academics, industry and NGO leaders from across the state and was co-organized by Cliff Rechtschaffen of the governor’s office,  Michael Gibbs of the California Air Resources Board and ITS-Davis Researcher Sonia Yeh.

They came together to help lay the scientific foundation for policymakers who are now looking beyond the current 2020 emissions reduction timeframe. Gov. Jerry Brown in January outlined 2030 climate and energy goals for California, including:

  • reducing today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent;
  • increasing the portion of electricity generated using renewable resources to 50 percent;
  • doubling the energy efficiency achieved in existing buildings, and making heating fuels cleaner;
  • reducing emissions of methane, black carbon and other potent pollutants across industries; and
  • managing farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands so they can store carbon.

In the event’s introductory remarks, Cliff Rechtschaffen, a senior advisor to Brown, referenced the governor’s inaugural address: “As the governor said, climate change is the greatest existential threat that we face in the world today. Nothing threatens the long-term health and prosperity of California more than climate change.”

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 Acknowledging the “ingenuity and talent” of the people assembled in the room, Rechtschaffen talked about the progress being made in California on renewable energy procurement, energy efficiency and the cap-and-trade program.

“Governor Brown and California are demonstrating to the rest of the world that we can fight climate change and have a healthy economy,” said Rechtschaffen, while acknowledging that we have to do “much more. The sooner we act the greater the climate benefits, and the less steep of a hill we have to climb.” To that end, this gathering responded in part to the governor’s call for active collaboration with business, academics, entrepreneurs and local government; commitment to innovation, research and imagination; and pragmatic caution.

“One of the critical first steps of any modeling effort is to consider the range of questions that we seek to answer,” explained UC Davis’ Yeh. “How might California’s energy system evolve by 2030 and 2050? What assumptions drive these results? What are the key uncertainties? How can models shed lights on the scale of challenges we are facing in terms of new technology and infrastructure and what policies are needed to address these changes?”

Yeh also emphasized the need to “identify ways to make the models and model findings useful and accessible and more transparent to policymakers and stakeholders.”

The modeling workshop discussion considered:

  • achievable GHG emission reductions through 2030;
  • scenarios for technologies and actions required economy-wide and from individual sectors that may enable deep reductions in state GHG emissions;
  • costs and benefits of reducing emissions, including contributions to local air quality improvements; and
  • potential aggregate and distributional impacts of GHG mitigation policy options on the State/regional economy.

As Rechtschaffen noted, “We need to find out and learn what is technically feasible and doable, the impact on the grid, the best sequencing. That’s what modeling can help inform.”

To view the agenda and presentations from the California Climate Policy Modeling Dialogue click here.

The February 2015 gathering was the second meeting of the California Climate Policy Modeling Dialogue. View the summary materials from the December 2013 forum here.

Photos: (Top) California Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard Corey delivers the luncheon address. (Mid) Part of the big turnout at the CCPM Dialogue workshop. Photo credit: Gene Ang.