Governor in SF to discuss clean energy

September 26, 2008 6:30:57 PM PDT
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to cast himself in a new role: an international leader on global warming.

The Republican governor, who has become a national pitchman by challenging many members of his party on the issue, announced Friday he would convene a summit in California for his contemporaries from around the world.

Schwarzenegger said he will invite lawmakers and government executives from China, India, Australia, Europe and other countries in the hope of forming an international alliance of community and regional leaders.

He is planning the conference for November, a month before the United Nations holds its next round of international climate talks in Poland. Governors from all 50 states also will be invited.

"The real action for any new ideas is always on the local level," Schwarzenegger told a gathering of the Commonwealth Club of California, a nonpartisan educational organization. "This is how we can push the agenda."

Schwarzenegger has been at odds with the Bush administration over environmental policy, criticizing what he calls a failure of leadership on global warming and other matters. California and other states sued the federal government after the administration denied their attempt to impose stringent vehicle emission standards to improve air quality.

Earlier this year, legislation seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions stalled in Congress.

Schwarzenegger said he conceived the summit in large part because of the failure of the U.S. to take the lead on initiatives seeking to slow or reduce the rate of global warming.

"Like I said, we are not waiting for the federal government," he said. "We will continue on to push forward."

How much sway Schwarzenegger and other local leaders will have on an international climate change treaty is unclear. Some foreign leaders earlier this week expressed doubt about the future success of a new global warming accord if the United States continues to refuse to participate.

New numbers released earlier this week showed the world's output of carbon dioxide continues to grow, with India and China accounting for the largest increases. Factories, power plants, cars and other polluters in the United States spewed 2 percent more carbon in 2007 than the year before.

Schwarzenegger's office said the summit will be scheduled Nov. 18-19 in Los Angeles but said it did not yet have a list of leaders who would be invited.

His address to the Commonwealth Club came the day before the second anniversary of his signing of California's global warming law, which requires the state to cut its emissions by roughly one-third by 2020.

State air regulators have spent much of the past two years designing California's massive new program and are scheduled to release the framework at the end of the year.

But California is still years away forcing large polluters to scale back their greenhouse gas emissions. The 2006 law doesn't require sweeping reductions until 2012.

Some industries and Republican lawmakers have sought to slow the process, saying it could cost too much at a time when the economy is in peril.

"The problem is, as far I'm concerned, too serious and the opportunities too great to get stuck in that kind of short term thinking," he said.

During the speech, Schwarzenegger also touched on a number of related environmental issues.

He said California ought to revisit its ban on nuclear power plants, and noted that improved technology might make nuclear power safer to operate. His spokeswoman Lisa Page added that the governor had not made a decision on whether that ban should be lifted.

He also reiterated his opposition to offshore oil drilling on the West Coast, a position that puts him at odds with GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, who has made drilling a key component of his campaign.


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