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State to bolster ties with Germany

Cooperation on global warming is pledged after the governor meets with the European nation's foreign minister.

August 31, 2007|Marc Lifsher | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday pledged to harmonize their governments' efforts to combat global warming.

But after their meeting, the two politicians weren't entirely in sync -- at least in their plans for another get-together in the fall.

Steinmeier announced that Schwarzenegger "has agreed to attend in person a political conference" of European Union heads of state and ministers set for Oct. 29 in Lisbon.

He said the meeting in part would lead to increased cooperation between California and the 27 members of the European community on how to create a market for buying and selling pollution credits.

Schwarzenegger, who has gained an international reputation as an environmental leader, has made development of such a market a top priority.

Schwarzenegger administration officials, however, denied that the governor had accepted Steinmeier's invitation to attend the European environmental summit. "We're not committed to anything," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McClear.

The governor wants to stay close to Sacramento in the fall, his spokesman said, in case he decides to call a special session of the Legislature to deal with health insurance, dam and water-supply issues or any of a half-dozen pending issues that are unlikely to be resolved before lawmakers recess Sept. 14.

Cooperation between Germany and California will increase whether or not the governor goes to Lisbon, McClear said. He said the governor was impressed with Germany's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels over the next 13 years. A California law signed last year by Schwarzenegger seeks to lower emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

For his part, Steinmeier said his trip to California and a visit earlier this week to Spitsbergen Island in the Norwegian arctic highlighted both the promises and the dangers of the impending global warming crisis.

At Spitsbergen, he personally saw evidence of a melting polar icecap, which he said was about one-third smaller than it was 15 years ago.

He said he was heartened, however, by what he had learned in California during talks with Schwarzenegger, academics and business leaders. "California is one of the states, along with European nations, that actually is offering the most progressive technology when it comes to increasing energy efficiency and the use of nonrenewable energy sources," he said in an interview.

Steinmeier said he told Schwarzenegger that Germany had been able to mold its environmental policies in a way that fostered economic growth, creating more than 200,000 high-tech jobs.

Germany, he said, spurred growth in the alternative-energy field by guaranteeing that companies that developed new technologies and products would earn a reasonable return on their investment in about 15 years. The guarantee is backed by a government fund created by surcharges on electricity bills.

Steinmeier said he offered to share German expertise with California to work toward setting up a joint emissions trading program with Western U.S. states that have mobilized more quickly against climate change than the Bush administration.

He said he expected that California's commitment to the environment would soon be shared by Washington.

"The importance of a climate-protection policy is one that no government, no matter of what color, is going to be able to avoid," Steinmeier said.


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