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Setting the Climate Agenda for the Next U.S. President- May 2016 Stanford- Key Take Aways

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Stanford’s May 6th 2016 conference: “Setting the Climate Agenda for the Next U.S. President

The terrific line-up of speakers advanced important observations and recommendations about how our next President might approach climate change-related issues and advance a successful agenda. All of the speakers agreed that, regardless of who wins the election, he or she will need to forthrightly address the impact that climate change already is having on our environment and our economy. He or she should advance a thoughtful agenda that engages key stakeholders in energy, infrastructure, land use, and many other sectors, as well as impacted state and local governments and, importantly, the international community.

Availability of Conference Presentations

All of the presentations made at the conference are now available online, including both the speakers’ individual presentations (which averaged about 15 minutes in length and are well worth your time) and in the provocative, moderated discussions that followed all of the individual presentations (also worth your time!). Here is the link:

By way of reminder, the presentations that you can find online include all of the speakers involved in the conference, along with moderated discussions, listed here in the order of their presentations:

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm

Former Secretary George Shultz

Arun Majumdar — Co-Director, Stanford Precourt Institute on Energy; former Acting Undersecretary for Science and Energy, U.S. Department of Energy; former Director, ARPA-E, DOE

Jagdeep Bachher — Chief Investment Officer, University of California system; representing the UC system in Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Coalition

Reed Hundt — Former Chairman, Federal Communications Commission; CEO, Coalition for Green Capital

Andy Karsner — Managing Partner, Emerson Collective; Senior Strategist, Google X; Stanford Precourt Energy Scholar & Former Assistant Secretary for Efficiency and Renewable Energy, DOE

Michael Picker — Chair, California Public Utilities Commission; former Senior Advisory for Renewable Energy for Governor Jerry Brown

Nancy Pfund — Founder and Managing Partner, DBL Partners

Dan Reicher — Executive Director, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance; former Assistant Secretary of Energy; former Director, Climate Change and Energy Initiatives, Google

David J. Hayes — Visiting Lecturer in Law, Stanford Law School; former Deputy Secretary, Department of the Interior

Kate Gordon — Vice Chair for Climate and Sustainable Urbanization, Paulson Institute; former VP for Energy Policy, Center for American Progress

Jim Connaughton — President and CEO, Nautilus Data Technologies; Board, former Chairman, White House Council on Environmental Quality

John Podesta — former Chief of Staff for President Clinton and former Counselor to President Obama

William K. Reilly — Senior Advisor, TPG Capital; former Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

Steven Chu — Professor of Physics and Molecular & Cellular Physiology, Stanford University; former Secretary of the Department of Energy

[Discussion moderators included David J. Hayes (Stanford Law School); Michael Wara (Stanford Law School), Sally Benson (Co-Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy), Buzz Thompson (Co-Director of the Woods Institute for the Environment), and Bruce Cain (Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West).]

Key Conference Take Aways

I have summarized below some of the key take aways from the conference. There was some divergence about how the next President might most effectively approach the climate issue (which is not surprising, given that experienced hands from both sides of the aisle participated in the conference), but there was a remarkable degree of coalescence around a number of key themes.

Caveat: The conference was not designed to provide a comprehensive list of recommendations for the next President. Indeed, speakers were encouraged to lean into creative ideas, and give less attention to proposals that are commonly identified for consideration.

Note also that several of the most important observations and recommendations will be fleshed out by the speakers, and other contributors, in written papers that will be presented and discussed at a Stanford-sponsored event at the National Press Club on September 15, 2016. Mark your calendars for that date.

The key observations and recommendations highlighted by speakers in the conference fall into two buckets:


General Themes

Innovation and Job Creation

(See generally Granholm; Shultz; Majumdar; Connaughton)(note: speakers identified under subject areas in this outline were among the speakers who addressed some aspects of the area during the conference.)

Establishing an Effective R&D and Deployment “Ecosystem”

(See generally Majumdar, Bachher; Connaughton; Shultz.)

Incentives and Tax Reform

(See generally Shultz; Majumdar; Chu; Podesta; Connaughton; Pfund; Reilly)

Addressing Economic Dislocation

(See generally Shultz; Reilly; Pfund.)

Sector-Based Observations/Recommendations


(See generally Hundt; Karsner; Picker; Connaughton; Majumdar)

Steel, Cement, Infrastructure

(See generally Gordon; Chu; Picker; Reilly)

Transportation; Buildings; Energy Efficiency

(See generally Shultz; Podesta; Picker; Reilly; Chu; Connaughton)

Land Use and Conservation

(See generally Hayes; Chu)


(See generally Pfund; Reicher; Bachher; Podesta; Shultz)

Potential Regulatory Priorities (in addition to sector-specific initiatives identified elsewhere)

(See generally Connaughton; Podesta; Hayes)


(See generally Gordon; Hayes; Majumdar; Podesta; Chu)


(See generally Reilly; Majumdar; Podesta)


White House/Cabinet Relationship

Presidential Use of Soft Power

(See generally Podesta; Hayes; Shultz; Granholm; Majumdar; Reilly; Chu)

A special thanks to Steve Denning, Chair of Stanford’s Board of Trustees, for opening up the conference, to Larry Kramer and Tom Steinbach of the Hewlett Foundation for supporting the conference and related activities, and for the Stanford schools and institutes that sponsored the conference, including Stanford Law School; Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences; and Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment and Precourt Institute for Energy.

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