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Gov.'s climate change speech is a hit

June 24, 2007|Jia-Rui Chong | Times Staff Writer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger received a standing ovation Saturday at a national meeting of mayors in Century City when he encouraged local governments to take the lead in combating climate change.

"I was so happy and so delighted when I found out that you've made climate change No. 1 on your 10-point plan to strengthen the nation," he told the crowd in the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza ballroom.

The governor, who wore a light-green tie as if to emphasize his environmental message, praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg's initiative to replace New York's fleet of gasoline-powered taxicabs with hybrids and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's bid to reduce the Department of Water and Power's reliance on coal-burning power plants for energy.

Hundreds of mayors also have signed a U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement calling on cities to meet or beat targets set in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

"Just like you mayors are doing, we are applying leverage so that at some point the whole environmental thing will tip," Schwarzenegger said. "We are not waiting for Washington."

The governor touted the law passed last year mandating a 25% cut in California's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and his executive order requiring car and trucks to reduce carbon emissions in their exhaust 10% in the same time frame.

He joked that a billboard in Michigan, center of the American car industry, accused him of telling the state to "drop dead."

"What I'm really saying," he said, "is 'Arnold to Michigan: Get off your butt!' "

The ballroom was filled with almost all of the approximately 1,000 mayors and other city officials attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors' annual meeting.

"He is on target," said Larry Nelson, mayor of Yuma, Ariz. Like other cities that draw their water from the Colorado River, Yuma is worried that global warming could mean more droughts and could diminish its water supply, he said.

He proudly described Yuma's project to remove water-hogging nonnative tamarisk trees from the riverbank as a way that cities could contribute.

"I agree" with the governor," said Patricia Christensen, mayor of Port St. Lucie, Fla. "Washington is taking too long. It really is up to cities and towns to lower fuel emissions."

Her city is building an environmentally friendly East Coast home for La Jolla's Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies. The building will feature heating and air-conditioning systems with top efficiency ratings, furniture made from recycled materials and a roof covered in living grass to help with drainage by absorbing the water, she said.

"I'd rather do something now than wait for the feds to give us unfunded mandates," she said.

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jia-rui.chong@latimes.com

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