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ICYMI: Progressive Policy Institute Event: Innovation, Not Litigation, Is the Way to Address Climate Change

On Monday, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) hosted an event in Sacramento, California, for a discussion on “Combating Climate Change Beyond the Courts.” PPI gathered a broad and well-versed panel of experts from across California to discuss municipal governments’ role in addressing climate change and collaborative solutions that work to protect the environment as well as California’s robust manufacturing industry. The panel was moderated by PPI’s Center for Civil Justice Director Phil Goldberg.

Goldberg, who also serves as Special Counsel to the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP), kicked off the event with a call for brokering innovative and collaborative solutions that work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through means other than trying to “litigate away climate change.”

To begin the conversation, California Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg referenced his background in the private solar industry to highlight the benefits of innovation, particularly when coupled with local policies encouraging innovation.  Senator Hertzberg emphasized that he “always focused on being both green and economically green.”

Daniel Johnson, of the California Energy Commission, offered insights into programs the agency is operationalizing to encourage efficient energy technologies. Specifically, Johnson mentioned the ‘Local Government Challenge’ and forty municipal applications vying to receive millions in grant funding to invest in technologies to achieve emissions reduction goals. Some examples of actions underway in California include:

  • San Diego – establishing a ‘Smart City’ network to analyze the energy use of municipal buildings to track emissions reductions.
  • Santa Barbara – developing a ‘zero-net’ energy plan and roadmap to better establish a path towards lower emissions.
  • Ventura County – developed energy action plans for four communities.
  • Del Mar – installed solar panels and a battery storage system on their new city hall building.

Next, Kim Stone, the former president of the Civil Justice Association of California, dove directly into climate litigation by spotlighting the high transaction costs and damages to private industry caused by baseless efforts to blame climate change on energy manufacturers. Stone concluded by reading a portion of U.S. District Judge William Alsup’s dismissal of California climate litigation, and then noted “governmental action is a more appropriate remedy for dealing with climate change than lawsuits.”

Jarrell Cook of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association spoke to the state’s manufacturing sector, its role in the economy, and climate litigation’s consequences on the industry. Cook offered that “manufacturers are part of the solution on climate change” and public nuisance litigation could endanger the 30,000 manufacturers and 1 million employees in California. In response to a question, he made the point that moving manufacturing overseas will only increase greenhouse gas emissions because places where these new factories would be set up would not have the commitment, laws and regulations for combatting climate change as in California.

Lastly, Lenny Mendonca, chief economic and business advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom, praised California’s history of innovation in the private industry. Mendonca encouraged the state to continue to approach climate change head-on through private industry solutions that prioritize being “inclusive, sustainable, and renewable.”

It’s encouraging that positive discussions like this week’s Progressive Policy Institute event stressed the importance of innovation, not litigation, to achieve climate goals.