September 8th Climate Symposium-Global Climate Negotiations:Lessons From California

By Linda Adams, Chairman of the Board of the Climate Action Reserve and former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency

In our unwavering battle against global climate change, we are fortunate to claim some of today’s most innovative and pioneering leaders as fighting on our team.  Among them are Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor Jerry Brown, California Senator Kevin De Leon, Mary Nichols, Dr. R.K. Pachauri, Lisa Jackson and Ed Begley Jr.  It was very fitting that these pioneers came together on September 8 at a USC Schwarzenegger Institute’s symposium held in a state that has also established itself as a strong environmental leader and steward, California.

California has a long, proud history of crafting and adopting climate change policy that sets high standards for protecting our environment, encourages our movement into a clean energy economy and protects the health of Californians.  Many of those policies have gone on to serve as examples for other jurisdictions and countries around the world.  A very recent – and excellent – example is California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32.  We are actually now approaching the eight-year anniversary of when that historic bill was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.  The solid design and success of programs under AB 32, perhaps most notably the well-designed cap-and-trade program that has operated now for the past two years, have been modeled by international programs and have even linked to other markets.

At the September 8 USC Schwarzenegger Institute symposium, leaders from government, academia, business and environmental groups came together to discuss California’s transformative climate change policies.  A goal of the event, “Global Climate Negotiations: Lessons from California,” was to discuss how lessons learned from California’s successful policies can be applied globally and shared at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conferences, COP20 and COP21, and other subnational convenings. 

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger opened the symposium and set the tone for a lively and rich discussion with the statement “California has never waited, never hesitated and never taken no for an answer.”  Other speakers continued that energy and focused on a number of issues that have been keys to the success of California’s climate change policies and other international programs.  These include the role of media, research on the scientific and economic impacts of climate change, why addressing climate change is good for business, student initiatives and implementing solutions from the bottom up.  One of the many notable quotes said at the event came from Lisa Jackson, VP of Environmental Initiatives at Apple and former U.S. EPA Secretary, “It is the true costs to our communities that we have to deal with.”  And, in a very fitting close to the event, Governor Jerry Brown reiterated California’s leadership role in climate change policy, “What happens here doesn’t stay here.  It goes all around the country and all around the world.” 

I have been very fortunate in my career to work alongside and be inspired by many of the speakers at this symposium, and there are countless other leaders who have all helped push us towards victories in addressing global climate change.  Government leaders like Governor Schwarzenegger and ARB Chair Mary Nichols have made climate change an issue of advancing policy, not politics.  Environmental nonprofits, like the Climate Action Reserve and the Pacific Forest Trust, have worked tirelessly to ensure the highest standards and effectiveness of our solutions.  And businesses like Apple and UPS have demonstrated and benefited from taking action and making sustainability part of their core business practices.  All of these leaders shared lessons at the symposium – some on stage and some in personal conversations on the sidelines of the event – and it is these types of strategic discussions that are focused on action that will ensure we have not and will not waver in our battle against global climate change.