SEI brought together local and international policy-makers last week to debate the merits of limiting oil supply. Their conclusion: Governments should take a comprehensive approach, considering a toolbox that includes everything from oil permit restrictions to subsidy reform.

The panel discussion – hosted by SEI and NextGen Policy — was held as part of a high-profile climate conference in California called the Global Climate Action Summit, or GCAS. It was unique at the conference in that it tackled, head-on, the idea of phasing out fossil fuel production.

As activists held demonstrations at GCAS calling on California policy-makers to phase out oil production, panelists discussed how policy-makers can respond to such social movements and make policy headway.

Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia, said part of the equation is “holding elected officials responsible.”

“In Canada, in Norway, in California, we have leaders claiming climate leadership and approving expansion of fossil fuels,” he said. “You can’t claim leadership on climate change if you are expanding the fossil fuel industry.  Let’s hold the line here.”

Policy-makers emphasized the need to address both supply and demand side of fossil fuels. Jo Tyndall, New Zealand’s climate ambassador, pointed to her country’s “comprehensive approach” to reach carbon neutrality in the second half of the century.

That approach includes a potential law on net zero emissions, an independent climate commission that will set carbon budgets, a work program to ensure a “just transition” – and a recent announcement that New Zealand will no longer grant permits for new offshore oil exploration.

“The announcement is a really clear signal to industry that New Zealand is phasing out oil and gas extraction,” Tyndall said. “It gives certainty to industry to plan, and it also gives a signal to major users of natural gas that they need to consider alternatives in new decisions they take.”

California has also taken steps in an attempt to curb offshore oil in its waters. State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson authored a bill that bans offshore infrastructure such as pipelines and docks.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law earlier this month.

“We know we cannot control what goes on in federal waters in the outer continental shelf, but we sure can control what happens in terms of infrastructure and the delivery of that oil through our state waters,” Jackson said.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz provided a local government viewpoint, pointing out that communities of color have “borne many of the environmental damages” from decades of oil and gas development. They should be the first to gain from a planned transition away from fossil fuels, he said.

“If we are actually going to find real solutions,” Koretz said, “our climate emergency can’t be separated from our environmental justice emergencies going on every single day around us.”


SEI and NextGen Policy hosted the panel, “Can limiting oil production make good climate policy?“, on 13 September. SEI Senior Scientist Peter Erickson moderated a panel that included New Zealand Climate Change Ambassador Jo Tyndall, Climate Change Ambassador, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, California State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, and Roger Lin, Clinical Supervising Attorney at  UC Berkeley Environmental Law Clinic.