Local Climate Leadership: Chris Chavez

Posted by on Friday, March 30th, 2018

Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez is Deputy Policy Director at the Coalition for Clean Air.

Tell us about your work on climate.

My work with the Coalition for Clean Air focuses in three areas:

  • Climate equity: Work with our partners in the California Climate Equity Coalition to ensure California’s cap and trade revenues are invested in communities which are disproportionally impacted by pollution, and making sure those investments improve air quality in addition to greenhouse gas reductions.
  • Electric vehicle deployment: Work with the Charge Ahead Coalition to increase electric vehicle deployment in low-income communities by advocating for strong local programs and state policies.
  • Local government and community relations: Educate local elected officials and the broader community about California’s climate investment, electric vehicle programs, and important environmental policy issues.

What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?

I’ve been involved with politics and policy since I was 13; that’s over half of my life! It always just seemed like the right fit for me and always kept my attention and interest. You could say my interest started even earlier, however. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time playing computer games where you got to build your own cities, transportation networks and deal with things like pollution. One of my top goals was to avoid pollution-forming industries and infrastructure and focus on renewables. Also, when I was in college, I did a lot of higher education advocacy with the California State University system and the California State Student Association (of which I was President in 2010-2011). But it was during my time at the State Capitol when I worked with Senators Alex Padilla and Fran Pavley that I truly started to get involved with environmental policy. I got to staff transportation-related bills and better understand the state’s role in reducing pollution through smart, equitable climate investments.

What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?

The biggest challenge is being able to fully comprehend policy and the politics surrounding it. Policy is not easy, and I’ve always regarded environmental policy among the most challenging. Environmental policy sits right at the intersection of law, health, science and economics. Throw in the fact that California is among the global leaders in environmental policy and that we’re often in uncharted territory, there is always a lot to learn!

What would make the job easier is more time. Being able to balance out research, planning, legislative visits, conference calls, meetings and staying informed of current events in a limited amount of time isn’t easy. However, part of what makes the political and policy world fun is it’s fast pace.

A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).

  1. That all politicians agree to work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. Convert all cars and freight vehicles to electric power (along with adequate charging infrastructure).
  3. I’ve always been a big science fiction fan, so the ability to teleport rather than drive or fly would be pretty neat (and hopefully it will be a zero-emissions transporter).
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