October 8, 2014 - From the October, 2014 issue

Governors Schwarzenegger & Brown Affirm CA’s Bipartisan History of Curbing GHG Emissions

At a symposium titled “Global Climate Negotiations: Lessons from California” held in Sacramento, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and current Governor Jerry Brown discussed the state’s landmark environmental policy, particularly efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions in light of climate change. TPR includes their edited addresses below, along with a related comment from former Mayor of Long Beach Bob Foster. The program was hosted by USC Schwarzenegger Institute, CARB, Cal EPA, and R20 Regions of Climate Action.


Arnold Schwarzenegger

“We have been implementing our environmental standards, just like we planned, and California’s economy has outpaced national growth.” —Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger: I want to say thank you to Governor Jerry Brown. California owes much of its environmental policy to his leadership. While politicians in Washington can’t get anything done, because of being stuck in ideological foxholes, we here in California have two governors from two different parties in the same room fighting for the same green energy future.

Isn’t that fantastic? It is truly exceptional. It’s no accident that we are leading in green technology and energy efficiency. 

California is 40 percent more energy efficient than the rest of the country. If the rest of the country had our policies, we could close two-thirds of our coal power plants—or, as Terry Tamminen says, take 188 million cars off the road. This is why I am so proud of what we have done here in California. 

As leaders all over the world prepare for the United Nations climate change conferences in Lima and in Paris, we are here to lead by example—from Regan who established the Air Resources Board, to Governor Brown’s vision of renewable energy during his first two terms.  He recognized that there aren’t conservative roads or liberal roads—we all drive on the same roads. As there is no conservative air or liberal air—we all breathe the same air. There is no conservative or liberal water—we all drink the same water. 

Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of partisan battles in California that Governor Brown and I could talk to you about for days, but we never believe in putting our environment into an ideological corner. 

California’s lucky. We have such beautiful resources, from our towering Sequoias, to our vast beautiful deserts, and a pristine coastline. But we are even luckier that the California people demand we protect these wonderful resources. When I became governor, I wanted to continue to build on the work of my predecessors. I was proud to stand on the shoulders of such giants and to continue on the path of the pioneers who came before me. 

We kept up the tradition. I couldn’t wait to get into the Governor’s office and do some great work for the environment. This is why we passed the low-carbon fuel standard, the green building initiative, the million solar roofs, the renewables portfolio standard, the tail pipe emissions reductions, and of course AB 32, where we made a commitment to reducing our greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2020 and 85 percent by 2050. We created the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the biggest conservancy in the history of California, with 25 million acres of protected land. 

Californians must consistently move forward to put our money where our mouth is. We never waited for the federal government or some international body. There were, of course, some experts who thought we were absolutely insane. They said this was Washington’s job, and that it isn’t the state’s business. We said the hell with that. 

Some experts said the economy would go down the drain. The opposite actually happened. We attract half of all the green-tech venture capital in the United States. Our green-tech companies have raised five times as much capital as in the second-biggest states. 

But it isn’t just the green sector. Our economy as a whole has been thriving. We lead the nation in manufacturing, in green tech, bio tech, agriculture, entertainment, tourism, and the list goes on. We have been implementing our environmental standards, just like we planned, and California’s economy has outpaced national growth. In 2012, the US GDP grew by 2.8 percent but California’s economy grew by 3.5 percent. Those who said California’s economy would go crashing down when we protect the environment were wrong, and we were right.

In California, we don’t have to choose between the environment and the economy. We know the opposite is true. Protecting the environment builds a strong, sustainable economy for the future. We also know that doing nothing will cost us a fortune down the line. From hundreds of billions of dollars to repair infrastructure that will be in danger of flooding, to tens of thousands of heat-related and pollution-related deaths, to the never-ending fire season—the threat of ignoring climate change is immense and real. A recent UN climate change study came out that predicted further warming will slow down economic growth, increase poverty, and further erode food security around the world. Therefore, California refuses to tolerate inaction. This is why we declared war on pollution, and this is why we declared war on climate change. 

Today, we are the leaders in energy efficiency. Every step of the way, people have fought us. But, we always fight back. The critics used very effective scare tactics. Remember when the catalytic converter was required? People screamed immediately that this will be the death of Detroit and the end of the auto industry. When we implemented the tail pipe emissions, it was deja vu. They said people will never be able to do business here again. The car companies declared war on California and sued us.

The federal government fought us, too. They refused to even give us a waiver to clean up our own air, saying that greenhouse gases are not a pollutant. We were forced to take the federal government to court. We took it all the way up to the Supreme Court, which found that greenhouse gases are a pollutant. Duh! Even though they tried to do everything they could to stop us, the opposite happened. 14 other states have passed tailpipe emissions standards like California’s. We have a lot of people joining us. In 2009, with the Obama administration, they made our tailpipe emissions law a federal standard.  

But the battles continued. When we passed AB 32, the oil companies and coal companies came storming in from out of state. They spent millions and millions of dollars to try and pass Prop 23, to undo everything that we had done with AB 32. They said to the people that our economy will come crashing down, businesses will close their doors, people will lose their jobs—using all of these scare tactics. 

But we didn’t pull back. We didn’t give in. We put together a great team of Democrats and Republicans that raised $31 million. On the day of election, the people of California “terminated” Prop 23. We said “hasta la vista baby” to those oil and coal companies, sending them back, with their fossil fuels, to where they belong.

I hope there’s a Kyoto II, because, as you know, I like sequels. But sub-national governments around the world should not wait for Lima or Paris. We should be defined by our movement, not our hesitation. 

There is no better place to spread this message than right here in California—the home of Apple, which told us “think different,” or Facebook, which tells us to “move fast and break things.” We are here today because California has never waited, never hesitated, and never taken no for an answer. Today I promise you that I will continue fighting that crusade. I invite the rest of the world to join us here in California on our march toward a sustainable energy future.

Jerry Brown: I want to review how we got here. It started with an actor, and a Republican, who became governor. I’m talking about Ronald Regan! No—there were two Republican actors, and they were both very interested in the environment. 

Ronald Regan was governor and Richard Nixon was president in 1969 when California was given a specific authority to obtain a waiver to have much more stringent vehicle emissions standards. That became the precedent for California to pioneer air pollution strategies to improve our health, and more recently, our whole environment. 

That’s the point I identified as to why California is so different from other states. It started under the Clean Air Act, when California was given this specific prerogative to chart its own course. 

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First we get Regan, then we get Gray Davis and the Pavley Emissions Standards, and then we get Governor Schwarzenegger and AB 32. I’m not sure if we could have gotten AB 32 if we had a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor. I think we needed a Democratic legislature and an independent-minded Republican governor. 

Of course, a lot of these things—like CEQA, which was settled under Regan—have to be cleaned up by the next guy who comes along. That’s what I’m doing with AB 32 right now. 

To get AB 32 through the California legislature is heavy lifting. Don’t underestimate that. Sometimes, not only do you need big dreams—but you also can’t know everything about the legislature, or you wouldn’t even try! 

Another element has put California in the forefront. From the time of John Muir, there has been sensitivity to the environment here—maybe because of our wonderful seals, because of Lake Tahoe, or because we’re adjoined to the Pacific. There is an openness to these kinds of environmental initiatives, so it is bipartisan. It’s a human challenge. 

We’re getting things done because we are rising. It’s said that “whatever rises, converges.” If we lift our minds, hearts, and imaginations, we will converge around a sense of what’s good for all of us, what’s good for humanity, and what’s good for future generations. That’s what the climate-change challenge is. It’s not the immediate and it’s not going to lead the 6 o’clock news. But it is really profound in its importance. How we respond will be a measure of democratic governance. Can it really work? I think it can, and I think it is. 

We are attacking carbon pollution. We know from the rule of the EPA, and the Supreme Court, that carbon is a pollutant—as a greenhouse gas, it endangers all of humanity. When we reduce carbon pollution, we improve the health of our lungs. We reduce respiratory assaults that carbon makes on us, and the same with asthma. 

All of that is degraded by the promiscuous and uncontrolled production and emission of various forms of carbon. That’s why the coal, oil, and natural-gas industries have a human obligation to deal with the consequences of their own success. 

I was speaking with an oil executive that said this isn’t a problem—it is the basis of our prosperity. If you look at the history of economic growth, you can see that since the Industrial Age, there has been a spike of economic output. It is unprecedented in all of human history. Yes, fossil fuels have been at the heart of the incredible rise of human prosperity. But we now see a dark shadow of the carbon economy—climate change, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, forest fires of California, and droughts that cause hunger, famine, and mass migration.

Now we have to find a way to continue and deepen prosperity even as we correct for the negative impacts of carbon pollution. We have to make changes. Those changes aren’t made in government halls—they’re made by inventors and technologists, and derived from investment capital. Luckily, California gets 50 percent of venture capital that is made available in America. We have to look to our entrepreneurs, scientists, and researchers to develop the technology. 

But in order to make the technology, we have to have the incentives. That’s what we’re doing in California: with our cap-and-trade system, our one-third goal of renewable energy, our building standards, our appliance efficiency standards, our upgrading of the grid to make it sophisticated, and our energy imbalance markets. We have an integrated plan to reduce carbon pollution while continuing our prosperous path forward. 

As we change technology, we’re going to have to change some of our understanding of what the good life requires. It’s not only a matter of different machines. It’s also a matter of different values. The two have to be molded together moving forward. It’s a technology challenge, a value challenge, a local challenge, and a global challenge. If we only do it in California, that’s not enough. 

An oil exec said what we do in California makes no difference, and that’s not true. What we do in California affects what they do elsewhere. California is a pioneer—the automobile emissions standards that the US now enforces started here. It’s true that if nobody follows, it’s not enough. But if we continue to pioneer, proving that we can succeed economically and environmentally, other people will be able to follow. 

California is the Golden State—the land of dreams. We’re going to continue making this dream of a sustainable planet work locally and spread globally. What happens here doesn’t stay here. It goes all around the country and all around the world.

Bob Foster: If you look at the sweep of history in most industries—whether entertainment, communications, or transportation—it has gone from central systems to decentralized systems. 

We’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint, but we’re also trying to atomize the energy sector in certain ways. 20-30 years from now, you’ll have self-sufficient homes and businesses that will actually be de-coupled from the grid. How do you get there? 

How do you marry the Internet and people, and link that up with finances? We are now at the stage where the system is moving so rapidly at the introduction of renewables, particularly solar, that you no longer have the traditional peaks in the energy systems we used to have. It’s going to be a dynamic system. It’s going to require aggregating a whole bunch of people that can control their energy use in their businesses and their homes, and on a signal, change that pattern to either use more or use less. 

We are going to have to use things like an iPhone, so that in your pocket, you can know what’s going on in your home in terms of energy use. That function is available today. What’s necessary is to marry that with financial rewards. Private business needs the ability to make money from it—to aggregate customers and give people the power in their own hands to change their use when it is beneficial for the system.

Pricing signals are necessary for this system. We don’t do that in California. There is a lot of fear out there on its impacts. But we need a dynamic pricing structure to marry the modern technological world with individual initiatives and desires to be much more efficient. That’s the kind of thing I would like to see in terms of state policy.

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© 2020 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.