In Copenhagen CA Backs Sub-National Action

By Published On: December 18, 2009

Editors’ Note: Circuit’s exclusive report from the international climate change conference in Copenhagen. For the second year in a row, it appears that the organizers of the United Nations climate change conference want to diminish opposition to global warming--at least from a Californian’s perspective. Last year, an international climate change conference was held in Poland in the middle of winter. This year it is in freezing Copenhagen where attendees waited outside for hours to get press passes and accreditation. At times, those waiting for clearance drowned out the protesters with cries of “let us in!” and joked about the urgent need for global warming. From the chaos at the doors to the negotiations behind closed doors, the conference seems dominated by miscommunication and disagreements over technicalities. They include which base year to use as a benchmark for measuring emission reductions and how to monitor emissions. Most important for participants is which line to stand in at the start of the day to get into the Bella Center, where the conference is held. Get in the wrong line and face a longer wait. California politicians had no trouble getting into the U.N. Climate Change Conference. Earlier this week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles made well-received visits to Copenhagen as part of an effort to highlight the importance of sub-national efforts to combat climate change. The two Californian politicians argued that states and cities are the key actors in the fight on climate change. “Why do we put so many hopes and eggs into the big international agreement basket when, according to the U.N. itself, up to 80 percent of greenhouse gas mitigation will be done at the sub-national level?” asked Schwarzenegger. Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, described Schwarzenegger’s role as that of “a cheerleader” for California’s accomplishments in order to encourage others to follow the state’s lead in voluntarily cutting emissions. He was also a cheerleader for a U.N. conference on climate change for cities, states, provinces, and regions, which he volunteered to host in California. Nichols told Circuit that the response to California’s efforts in Copenhagen has been “terrific.” In contrast to her appearance at the U.N. climate change conference in Bali two years ago, California is now part of the mainstream of U.S. efforts. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has shown off the state’s accomplishments to bolster more limited federal achievements, and California has direct access to the federal negotiating team, she said. In Bali Nichols said, “California was almost a maverick,” fighting against its own national government, given the federal stance on climate change. Now, California is on “much more solid ground,” she said, while discussing climate change with international counterparts. U.S. governors emphasized the importance of seeing environmental technology and jobs as an opportunity and not a burden. Washington Governor Christine Gregoire spoke at the conference of her state’s goal of creating 25,000 green jobs by 2020; instead, 47,000 have been created already. According to Schwarzenegger, alternative energy sources, such as wind and sun and algae, are unlimited and will not face price increases, unlike coal and oil. “We are beginning one of history’s great transitions--the transition to a new economic foundation for the 21st century and beyond,” Schwarzenegger said. By Elisa Walton Edited By

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