A pro-climate business coalition has proven pivotal in forging California's climate policy regime. iStockPhoto.com // Krittanut Unsombut

business on board for the environment

How has California managed to enact America’s “strongest” climate laws when confronted with a “fragmented system of government with multiple veto points,” a dynamic landscape of interest groups, and a weighty presence of fossil fuel industry? In a paper published in Social Forces, Andrew Jaeger explores the collaboration between Silicon Valley and the state of California, aiming to find answers to questions that transcend state boundaries and environmental constraint.

By examining a multi-faceted dataset that includes archived newsletters, reports, position papers, and field research, Jaeger reveals Silicon Valley’s pivotal role in shaping climate policy. The emergence of the Environmental Entrepreneurs group, advocating that addressing climate change necessitates substantial investments in “cleantech,” has positioned Silicon Valley as a primary producer of such technologies. This burgeoning green industry, in turn, has attracted considerable capital investment and forged a pro-climate business coalition crucial in the passage of California’s climate laws.

Silicon Valley garnered support, lobbied state officials, and emerged as a fervent advocate for climate initiatives by framing climate policy as a win-win for both the economy and the environment. This scenario not only diffused the economic threats posed by the fossil fuel coalition but simultaneously recast it as a self-interested entity representing a diminishing sector of the economy. Consequently, the emergence of Silicon Valley as a prominent force within the pro-climate movement underscores the author’s suggestion that “a credible plan for spurring growth, supported by significant fractions of capital, is necessary for achieving comprehensive climate policy.”