Beyond Fossil Fuels – Just Transition in California and Germany

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How can we transition from a fossil-fuel-based economy to net zero? How can we ensure this transition is just & fair?

What can we learn from each other in the United States and Germany? How can we get ready for a net-zero emissions society by 2050?

There is, a growing understanding in the US of the necessity to shift away from fossil fuels towards green energy. Extreme weather phenomenons and devastating wildfires have made clear: Climate change is a fact and fossil fuels contribute considerably to this development.

Therefore, we need to move beyond fossil fuels, fast and thoroughly. This starts with coal, but does not stop there: natural gas and oil are the next steps in the process.

Yet, fossil fuels are still the main source of energy for both Germany and the United States of America. Beyond this, the supply of fossil fuels creates and secures numerous employment opportunities, including highly skilled jobs, but also increases the local tax base. This applies both to coal, gas and oil extraction, although the nature and quality of employment created differs from resource type to resource type.

Germany has gained valuable experience with the Just Transition approach both during the hard coal exit in the Ruhr Area, and now in the ongoing lignite coal exit in the Rhineland and Lusatia.

While world leaders negotiated at the UN climate conference in Glasgow, we will discussed how the German experience with Just Transition can be applied to the situation in California and vice-versa.

Due to the pandemic, speakers from Germany participated via video conferencing.

This hybrid event took place at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator on November 12, 2021.

The program is sponsored by the German Foreign Office as part of their Climate Funds for climate action. We thank the Consulate General of Germany in Los Angeles for their support.

Opening remarks by:

Stephen Hargett, VP Campus Operations & User Experience, LACI

Consul General Stefan Schneider

Gary Gero, Chief Sustainability Officer, County of Los Angeles

Session 1: Phasing out fossil fuels: coal, gas and oil


Christian Hauenstein, Coal Exit Research Group, Europa-University Flensburg

Ann Alexander, Senior Attorney, NRDC

How do California and Germany plan the phase-out of coal in the energy systems and what possible lessons can we learn from the process of the German Coal Commission for California’s next steps?

Session 2: Transitioning into New Industries and Jobs


Bernd Tischler, Lord Mayor of Bottrop

Devon Hartman, President and Executive Director, CHERP Inc., CEO, CHERP Solar Works

How can we ensure new job opportunities are available, offering good and skilled jobs? How can we train the existing workforce and foster innovation and entrepreneurship? We will hear examples from Bottrop and California.

Session 3: A Just Transition – Social and Equity Implications

Christine Herntier, Mayor of Spremberg

Andrea Furnaro, Just Transition Researcher, UCLA

Phasing out coal means many environmental benefits, but also socio-economic challenges for vulnerable populations. How can we ensure the most at-risk are not losing out in the transition? We will hear examples from Lusatia and California.

Our speakers:

Christine Herntier is the non-party mayor of Spremberg in the Lusatia-region of Brandenburg. First elected in 2014, she was just re-elected in October 2021. She was a member of the German Coal Commission and is the speaker for the municipalities of Brandenburg in the Lausitzrunde (Lusatia Council).

Bernd Tischler was first elected as Bottrop’s lord mayor in 2009 and has been re-elected in 2014 and 2019. Since 2009, he heads the planning commission of the Ruhr Regional Association. He completed his studies in urban planning at the University of Dortmund in 1984 and started working as an urban planner for the City of Bottrop in 1989.

Christian Hauenstein is research associate & PhD student at Europa-Universität Flensburg, guest researcher at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) & at Technische Universität Berlin. In his research, he focuses on socio-ecological transformations of the energy system, and in particular on the phase-out of fossil fuels.

Stefan Schneider started his diplomatic career in 1987 and his assignments have taken him all over the world: Head of the Legal and Consular Section in Thailand, Head of the Trade and Commerce Section in Bulgaria, Deputy Consul General in Miami, Counsellor for Political Affairs in Paris, Consul General in Izmir and Head of the Cultural Affairs Section in Rome.

Stephen Hargett is the VP of Campus Operations & User Experience at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). Before joining the team in January of 2020, Stephen spent the last 10 years working in the technology and startup industry, most notably at Apple, Tesla, and WeWork.

Gary Gero was appointed LA County’s first Chief Sustainability Officer in November 2016. Gary previously served as the President of the Climate Action Reserve and he now serves as the Vice-Chair of its Board of Directors. Gary’s career includes service as the Assistant General Manager for the City of Los Angeles Environmental Affairs Department, and he also managed renewable and energy efficiency programs at LADWP.

Ann Alexander is a Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, where she has worked since 2007. In her current role with the NRDC Nature Program’s Dirty Energy Project, she focuses on advocacy concerning fossil fuel extraction, transportation, and refining, with a particular emphasis on California.

Andrea Furnaro is a social scientist and PhD candidate in the Geography Department at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research focuses on the social and political aspects of the low-carbon energy transition, with a particular interest in the political economy of phasing out fossil fuels in Germany, Southern California, and Colombia.

Devon Hartman is now focusing his 35 years of experience in architecture, construction, and strategic business development on the field of Energy Efficiency and Solar PV. He is an expert in strategic business systems development, consumer-facing sales and marketing strategies and energy efficiency management operations in Home Performance. Newly retired from his decades-long role as Co-Founder and President of HartmanBaldwin Design/Build, Inc., he has Founded CHERP to form collaborative partnerships with cities, counties, community organizations, and contractors to promote sustainable building practices and the reduction of fossil fuel use in buildings throughout California and beyond.

His award-winning architecture and construction work has garnered over 50 national awards, including the Gold Nugget Grand Prize from the Pacific Coast Builder’s Association and the Grand Prize Design Award from Remodeling Magazine. His work has been featured in numerous articles and interviews including Preservation, Wall Street Journal, Remodeling Magazine, LA Times and HGTV and he has worked in France, Peru, Brazil and Egypt. Devon is a General Contractor, Designer, Developer of VGM Santa Barbara, LEED AP, Green Point Rater, lecturer; consultant; community organizer/educator.

Board Member of Pando Populus, Founding Member of Efficiency First, Board Member of Efficiency First California and Sustainable Claremont, Founder of CHERP Inc. (Community Home Energy Retrofit Project), Founder of Claremont|Pomona Locally Grown Power, Co-Founder and Project Consultant for the Pilgrim Place Energy Efficiency Project.

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