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    Inside Lawmakers’ Climate Trips To Egypt, Japan

    By Emily Hoeven

    Get ready for another raft of ambitious climate bills when California lawmakers return to Sacramento next month.

    A few days after the Nov. 8 election, bipartisan groups of more than a dozen state legislators — including some who have hit term limits and won’t be returning to the Legislature — embarked on international trips with a heavy climate focus. One delegation headed to Egypt for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, and another went to Japan to study its climate and affordable housing policies.

    The trips come less than a month before newly elected lawmakers are set to convene Dec. 5 in Sacramento for a swearing-in ceremony — and to begin a special session called by Gov. Gavin Newsom to consider levying a tax on oil industry profits. And they come amid an intensifying fight with the oil industry, which is seeking to qualify a 2024 referendum to overturn a new state law banning new or extensively retrofitted oil and gas wells near homes, schools and hospitals.

    But lawmakers attending the U.N. conference said during a Wednesday press conference from Egypt that even more aggressive action is needed, and that California’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2045 doesn’t go fast enough.

    • State Sen. Bob Wieckowski, a termed-out Fremont Democrat: “We spend too much time worrying about 2045 and not worrying about 2024 and 2023. We need to do things right now to reduce our carbon emissions.”
    • State Sen. Dave Min, a Costa Mesa Democrat: “Ultimately, if we don’t innovate rapidly right now, we’re gonna be in big trouble. … We can solve this problem. But we really have to take it with the seriousness that it deserves. To date, I think we’ve not quite done that, although of course our state is leading.”

    Among the proposals lawmakers said they’re considering introducing in the next legislative session:

    • Auditing “global corporations” that pledge to achieve net-zero emissions. “One thing I’ve been exploring is whether we can … find a path for California to be that stamp of approval and sort of be the integrity cop,” said state Sen. Henry Stern, a Calabasas Democrat.
    • Incentivizing Californians to return excess energy stored in electric car batteries to the state’s power grid during peak hours to avoid blackouts. Instead of California sending residents an emergency alert asking them to reduce consumption, “Imagine an alert saying, ‘Hey, you can make like 100 bucks right now if you hook up your car to the grid,’” Min said.
    • Considering targeted investments in foreign countries. Wieckowski, who won’t be returning to the Legislature, floated the idea of using non-taxpayer funds — such as money reaped from California’s pollution credit program — to address certain issues beyond state borders. One example he cited: cleaning up Mexico’s Tijuana River, which perpetually pollutes San Diego beaches.

    Other legislators who attended the Egypt conference: Democratic state Sens. John Laird and Bob Dodd; Democratic Assemblymembers Eloise Gomez Reyes and Reggie Jones-Sawyer; and Republican Assemblymember Mike Fong. A Senate spokesperson said no state funds were used. The Assembly paid for a security staffer to attend, but didn’t cover costs for legislators, who received a $5,000 travel stipend from The Climate Registry, said Katie Talbot, a spokesperson for Speaker Anthony Rendon.

    Meanwhile, a separate delegation is in Japan from Nov. 11 to 22 for a “study tour” sponsored by the California Foundation for the Environment and the Economy, which recently took lawmakers on trips to Maine, Canada, Iceland and Portugal.

    Joining representatives from the foundation’s board of directors — which includes business, labor, environmental, utility and local government leaders — were State Treasurer Fiona Ma; Democratic state Sens. Bob Archuleta, Susan Talamantes Eggman, Lena Gonzalez and Josh Newman; Republican state Sen. Scott Wilk; Democratic Assemblymembers Steve Bennett, Tasha Boerner Horvath, Laura Friedman, Alex Lee, Al Muratsuchi and Chris Ward; and Republican Assemblymember Devon Mathis. Senior Newsom administration officials were also set to attend.

    According to a trip itinerary, the group is slated to tour hydrogen production facilities, port infrastructure and a Toyota hydrogen fuel cell vehicle manufacturing plant; meet with elected officials and business, labor, environmental and community leaders; and learn more about Japan’s famous bullet train, affordable housing programs, clean energy investments and nuclear power plant operations.

    • Jay Hansen, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a statement: “Japan is leading the way on hydrogen fuel and nuclear power as promising climate-smart technologies. It’s critical that California keeps an open mind as we look for the best ways to reduce carbon emissions while keeping the lights on, managing costs and building on our state’s history of environmental protection.”



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