Yesterday in Beverly Hills, a bipartisan group of U.S. Governors, along with elected officials and representatives from around the world, convened for the Governors' Global Climate Summit, hosted by California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The purpose of the summit is to facilitate a high-level meeting between governmental "climate leaders" and to conclude a cooperative Summit Declaration on climate solutions, as well as to discuss the outlook for a comprehensive global agreement on climate solutions that prevents the world passing the "tipping point" on climate change.
During the last 8 years of federal inaction on climate in the U.S., states have played an important role in picking up the slack on emissions reductions and climate policy. More than half of the states in the U.S. have or are in the process of developing climate action plans that are in line with the Kyoto Protocol. Three regional cap-and-trade alliances have already been created through the work of these states, and despite inaction by the Bush administration, as well as the forming of the International Carbon Action Partnership in coordination with the European cap-and-trade system.
In the Governor's opening remarks, he talked about the skepticism he met with five years ago when he asserted that California could protect the environment and the economy at the same time:
And, of course, we fought all the way through and we, of course, knew that we were on the right track. And that's why, even though there was tremendous resistance in the beginning, we moved forward with our Tailpipe Emissions Standards and with our Green Building Initiative, with our Million Solar Roof Initiative, also building the Hydrogen Highway and Low Carbon Fuel Standards and all of those various different things.
Of course there were, like I said, people that didn't believe in it and they thought that we were going to hurt the economy. I still have friends in the business world that come to me and say that this is going to hurt the economy. But, of course, we believe very strongly that this is going to help the economy.
And I tell you, when we talk about facing obstacles, we also have faced obstacles on the federal level, with the federal government. And they were as enthusiastic -- especially when we passed AB 32 to make a commitment to lower our greenhouse gas emissions -- they were as enthusiastic about that as people were seeing my first movie, Hercules in New York. (Laughter) Which is a movie that went right in the toilet, just to show what the great enthusiasm was there.
But the bottom line is that I'm excited to report, however, that in January all of this will change because now there is a new administration coming in. And I will not talk much more about that, but this new administration is very much interested in adopting the same kind of regulations that we have adopted here in California, but I will get to that later on. - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Schwarzenegger's praise for the incoming administration is not surprising as California has been at odds with the Bush administration on the environment for some time, most notably over the EPA's refusal to allow California a waiver to set greenhouse gas emission reduction levels beyond the federal standard. And although, the popular Californian and former movie star did campaign for Senator McCain, he did so tepidly, at best. And his well-respected wife, Maria Shriver, a cousin of Ted Kennedy, was an early endorser of Obama.
Among the highlights of the first day was a taped address from the leader of that new administration, President-Elect Obama (which met with a standing ovation, I'm told):
As one of the first acts of the summit, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Governor Antônio Waldez Góes da Silva, Amapa, Brazil; Governor Eduardo Braga, Amazonas, Brazil; Governor Blario Maggi, Mato Grosso, Brazil; Governor Ana Júla de Vasconcelos Carepa, Para, Brazil; Governor Yusof Irwandi, Aceh, Indonesia; and Governor Barnamas Suebu, Papua, Indonesia, along with Governor Schwarzenegger, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to reduce forestry-related greenhouse gas emissions
"Tropical deforestation accounts for 20 percent of all human-caused carbon emissions in the world, and the governors signing these MOUs with us manage more than 60 percent of the world's tropical forest lands," Governor Schwarzenegger said. "With this agreement, we are focusing our collective efforts on the problem and requiring our states to jointly develop rules, incentives and tools to ensure reduced emissions from deforestation and land degradation. We are also sending a strong message that this issue should be front and center during negotiations for the next global agreement on climate change."
As the first state-to-state, sub-national agreement focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and land degradation (REDD) programs, the MOU commits the signatories to:
- Focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and land degradation while promoting sequestration of additional carbon through restoration and reforestation and improved forest management practices;
- Jointly develop rules to ensure that forest-sector emission reductions and sequestration could pass the strictcriteria outlined in California's AB 32 Scoping Plan and potentially play a role in theWestern Climate Initiative effort; and
- Develop a Joint Action Plan by early 2009 to clearly outline progress. This progress will be discussed at the 2009 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
This is an important step as we learn more about the devastating effects of deforestation and attempts to weaken forestry stewardship laws.
Also in attendance at the meeting were Governor Charlie Crist of Florida, another Republican that has been out front on climate issues, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Arief Yuwono, Indonesian Secretary General, Ministry of the Environment, along with representatives from the EU, the UN, China, Mexico, Canada and India. A number of NGOs were also represented.
As the conference wraps up tomorrow, the attendees plan to sign a declaration of continuing cooperation which will be introduced by Mary Nichols, Chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board and a name often mentioned as a leading candidate for EPA Administrator under the incoming administration.