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Schwarzenegger launches new climate-change group

The international organization of states and provinces intends to move ahead on the issue despite the failure to achieve a global climate pact in Copenhagen last year.

November 17, 2010|By Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday launched an international organization to tackle climate change with leaders from regional governments in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and the United States.

The failure to achieve an international climate pact in Copenhagen last year left many people discouraged, Schwarzenegger said, addressing several hundred delegates to a "climate summit" at UC Davis. But now, he added, "The sub-nationals should do their work.... The green revolution is moving forward full speed ahead without the international agreement."

Despite Schwarzenegger's cheerleading, the signing ceremony for the Regions of Climate Action group, known as the R-20, had a lame-duck quality. Only one other U.S. governor, outgoing Democrat Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, was present for the signing in the half-empty auditorium; no provincial leader from China, Earth's largest carbon-emitter, agreed to join the effort.

Schwarzenegger officials had predicted that about 100 government leaders would sign the pact to cooperate on climate change; but in the 11 months since the governor first announced the initiative, only about 25 states and provinces have agreed to be part of the group. Besides Doyle, the group includes the governors of Michigan, Oregon and Washington.

Wenhang Huang, an official with China's National Development and Reform Commission, said the R-20 could play "a complementary role" to international negotiations on a climate treaty, which will continue in Cancun, Mexico, next month. But before any Chinese provinces sign up for R-20, she said, "There has to be an internal dialogue."

"We are at the beginning of the beginning," said Terry Tamminen, a consultant and former Schwarzenegger official who is in charge of setting up the group. "We are looking at some sample projects, like cool roofs and street lighting. We are talking to regional development banks and for-profit investors. Let's harness the money that's out there."

Tamminen said his nonprofit is raising funds to hire "a couple of staffers" for a Geneva office.

Will the group offer Schwarzenegger a retirement project to extend his environmental legacy? Schwarzenegger is "the founding chair," Tamminen said. "There is a role for him after he leaves office to continue to be a strong advocate and pull in resources. But his role is not yet defined and depends on which other governors want to get involved."

The effort to bind together states and provinces follows the model of the C-40 cities initiative, a group of representatives from large urban areas around the world, including Los Angeles, that meets yearly to tackle climate change issues. Launched in London in 2005, the group has been working to help cities purchase green technology in bulk, such as energy efficient street lighting, to create a broader market and drive down prices.

Schwarzenegger's R-20 hopes to work in a similar vein as the larger consortium, which shares information on how to inventory and reduce greenhouse gases, and how to develop energy efficient building codes, mass transit and electric vehicle charging stations.

Besides a few panels of green-leaning officials and corporate executives, much of the two-day event was taken up with gauzy films of forests, waterfalls and exotic species and promotional videos for the sponsors, including BMW and the Aga Khan Development Network. There were appearances by Deepak Chopra and Harrison Ford, valedictories commending Schwarzenegger's leadership and a lengthy video of England's Prince Charles discussing global harmony, the theme of his latest book.

In an effort to highlight specific progress, Schwarzenegger also signed a "memorandum of agreement" with the governors of the Mexican state of Chiapas and the Brazilian state of Acre to develop a framework that would allow those states to sell forest carbon offsets in California's upcoming cap-and-trade market.

California's draft cap-and-trade regulations allow companies that are required to cut pollution to meet up to 8% of their emissions reduction obligations through offsets, which may eventually include tropical forests in other nations.

margot.roosevelt@latimes.com

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