Yesterday I spoke at the UC Davis Environmental Law Society's annual symposium on California's 2030 climate policy. My co-panelists Richard Frank (UC Davis), Leslie McAllister (UC Davis), Michael Dreibelbis (Latham & Watkins), Darien Shanske (UC Davis), Albert Lin (UC Davis), and I discussed California's foreign climate policy—including whether we can ever pursue such a thing under the U.S. Constitution.
My presentation began with the observation that California's major climate policies were launched during the Bush Administration, but didn't actually take shape until the Obama Administration, which explicitly and implicitly supported the state's efforts to demonstrate leadership on the global stage. Those were the good old days. Under President Trump the risks of federal preemption on foreign affairs grounds are much higher, as his administration begins to roll back bedrock environmental regulations as well as the United States' commitments to the United Nations climate negotiations.
For California to continue to lead in this difficult new era—especially in its approach to carbon pricing—we will need to be more strategic about the form our outward-facing engagement takes. In my view policymakers should continue to convene and demonstrate leadership in non-binding discussions like the Under2 MOU and the Pacific Coast Collaborative, but linking our carbon market with international jurisdictions raises new and unnecessary risks. Rather than link carbon markets, we can coordinate our carbon prices with our neighbors and allies around the world, just like the framework Prime Minister Trudeau has initiated for Canadian provinces.
Thanks to the student organizers—Sophie Wenzlau, Dane Jones, and especially Jamie Katz—for inviting me. I really enjoyed the event and the chance to visit the Davis campus during the peak of California's early spring season.
Update: Leslie McAllister writes to share more about her presentation on the history of California's international climate cooperation.