Gov. Brown seeks global stage on climate

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) continues to take a leadership role on climate change in the wake of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement by planning to attend global talks on warming in the fall.

Brown returned Thursday from a trip to China, where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and signed multiple agreements with national and provincial governments to cooperate on clean energy and greenhouse gas trading programs. He announced Friday at a meeting with German officials that he would attend the upcoming U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany, in November.

“This is not an easy thing, to turn around a modern economy and move it in a direction of decarbonization,” Brown said. “It’s urgent, it’s fundamentally important but extremely difficult, and it requires heroic effort. That’s the reason I went all the way to China to advance our climate action agenda, and that is the reason why the environment minister of Germany comes all the way to California.”

“That is an indication that there are leaders in the world that care and are determined to move the world down a path of sustainability, a path we’re not really on yet; we haven’t made the turn,” he added.

He met Friday with German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety Barbara Hendricks, who had been in New York at a U.N. conference on ocean acidification. The two signed a joint statementaffirming their commitment to the Paris Agreement and the Under2 Coalition, a group aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to under 2 tons per capita, started by Brown and the German state of Baden-Wùrttemberg in 2015. The coalition now has 175 jurisdictions as members.

“This broad alliance shows that the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was a decision of the administration [of] Trump and not of the whole American society,” Hendricks said through a translator. “We will also continue to reach out to the U.S. administration to come back to the table of climate action.”

If Trump continues to oppose international climate cooperation, Hendricks added, it would have only a temporary effect. “According to the U.S. Constitution, a president can only serve for two terms, so eight years, and I think climate is going to survive this,” she said.

Brown sounded a similarly optimistic note.

“I still think that this path will not be continued,” he said. “You can’t go against every country in the whole world except, what is it, Nicaragua and Syria? I don’t think that’s possible. And if you notice, Trump does not always stay the course. He does change his mind. I believe that the federal government will at some point turn to a more environmental and climate-friendly policy.”

“Far from slowing down on climate change, President Trump, by some Hegelian dialectic, has emphasized a strong forward movement in dealing with climate change,” Brown said. “And if you can get ‘Hegelian dialectic’ on television, I will give you a Pulitzer.”

When asked about California’s own contribution to fossil fuel production and hydraulic fracturing, Brown made a demand-side argument.

“I would venture to say that most of the people here came with the aid of oil to get here, one way or the other,” he said. “Your microphones and cameras are part of oil. So California does its part. We provide 30 percent of our oil consumption from our own drilling, and a very small part of that 30 percent involves the fracturing process.”