USC and Stanford Host Second Symposium on Climate Change Policy and Transportation

Last month, the Schwarzenegger Institute partnered with Stanford University’s Energy Modeling Forum to host their second Stanford Energy Modeling Forum-USC Schwarzenegger Institute Symposium on Climate Change Policy and Transportation. This Symposium was a two-day event and is the second in a series of continued collaboration. Similar to the Symposium held last year at USC, this year’s event primarily focused on the transportation sector in California, but it also expanded to include a secondary theme of the electricity grid integration of the large number of zero-emission vehicles now mandated in California over the next couple of decades. 

Due to the pandemic, this year’s Symposium was moved to an online format, but that didn’t stop presenters and audience members from participating in the event. The virtual platform allowed even more people to attend the event, doubling the number of participants from last year.

Researchers making 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. Policymakers who participated in the Symposium included former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Los Angeles Councilmember Kevin de León (CD-14), Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (AD-56), and former Senator Fran Pavley. 

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. 

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. 

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. Her presentation 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 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 off 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. 

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 noted: “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 month, including equity/environmental justice, employment impacts, and improved communication of direct benefits and co-benefits of climate change policy.”