Charting California's Course on the Environment

From Brown to Newsom and Beyond

June 6, 2019, UCLA School of Law

Over California Gov. Jerry Brown's four terms in office— from 1975 to 1983 and from 2011 to 2019—California maintained and built on its deserved reputation for developing and implementing forward-thinking environmental policy. California's innovations in environmental, climate, and energy policy have marked the state as a national, and even global, force. Gov. Newsom is certain to build on that legacy. At home, however, California continues to face entrenched environmental issues: the use and movement of water, the development of fossil fuel resources, and a housing affordability struggle that raises deep questions about land use policy.

This symposium explored California's status and future as an environmental pioneer. Panelists examined the successes and challenges faced during Brown's tenure in office, taking a close look at the complexities of the state's environmental policy commitments and what they have meant for California, the nation, and the international community. With Gov. Newsom now at the helm, panelists and speakers also looked at today's environmental leadership opportunities: both to stay the course and to build upon it.

This event was co-sponsored by the UCLA Institute on Environment and Sustainability, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, and Climate Resolve.

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Symposium Program & Videos

  • Opening Remarks: Mary D. Nichols, Chair, California Air Resources Board


  • Panel 1: Problems and Opportunities at Scale: Facing California's Greatest Environmental Challenges

    California attempted fixes to some of its most complex problems during Gov. Brown's time in office: the state's perennial water woes, ongoing questions about environmental equity and justice, and, of course, climate change and energy questions. What progress have we made over the last two gubernatorial terms? Did some of those Goliaths get the better of us? This panel considers the unique roads traveled to address some of the state's highest profile issues, and successes and failures along the way. The panel discuss lessons learned from efforts to tackle big, intractable statewide issue with numerous entrenched stakeholder interests, and looks forward to the future of these projects and policies during the Newsom administration.

    • E. Joaquin Esquivel, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board
    • Yana Garcia, Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs, CalEPA
    • Liane Randolph, Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission
    • Sean B. Hecht (moderator), Co-Executive Director, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment & Evan Frankel Professor of Policy and Practice, UCLA School of Law


  • Panel 2: "We'll launch our own damn satellite": California As A National and Global Force

    Establishing California as a globally-recognized proving ground for innovation means not only making ambitious policy at home, but also working with—and sometimes against—federal and international actors to advance those policy goals. This panel examines California's relationships with other U.S. states, the federal government, and the international community over the course of Gov. Brown's tenure and into the present day, with a particular focus on the state's prominent role as a powerful subnational actor in advocating for climate policies. How much influence has California had, and can it continue to have, on environmental policy outside its borders? Panelists will look ahead to continued opportunities for California's leadership in this area.

    • Ken Alex, Director of Project Climate at the Center for Law, Energy & Environment, UC Berkeley School of Law
    • Ann Carlson, Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law and Faculty Co-Director, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA School of Law
    • David Hayes, Executive Director, State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, NYU School of Law
    • William Boyd (moderator), Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law; Professor, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability


  • Panel 3: Building on Jerry: Tackling Housing and Transportation

    California's long struggle to provide affordable housing for its residents came to a head during the last few years of Gov. Brown's final term, and Gov. Newsom has signaled that housing is a key priority for his administration. At the same time, California has committed itself to ever more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, which cannot be met without meaningful changes in the transportation sector. But improving access to affordable, sustainable, equitable transportation remains a significant challenge. As California works to house its residents and combat climate change, questions about the compatibility of these two policy goals are being raised. This panel explores the makings of the housing crisis and lessons learned from Gov. Brown's tenure and considers how California can meet its considerable housing and transportation challenges moving forward, while continuing to make progress on climate and other environmental goals.

    • Jennifer Ganata, Senior Staff Attorney, Communities for a Better Environment
    • Jeannie Lee, Chief Counsel, Governor's Office of Planning and Research
    • Louis Mirante, Legislative Director, California YIMBY
    • Julia Stein (moderator), Supervising Attorney, Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic; Project Director, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA School of Law


  • Closing Remarks

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