Collaboration is the key to making progress

State leaders from around the country converged today to send a clear message to the rest of the world that a significant portion of the United States is still committed to reaching the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement.

A panel of governors and former governors spoke this morning. The most entertaining speaker was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He talked about battling former President George W. Bush on California’s right to blaze ahead with great climate policy. California fought the U.S. Administration, and their backwards EPA at that time, all the way up to the Supreme Court – and won.

He expressed frustration that states are back to taking a leadership role without any corresponding commitment at the federal level. He stressed that climate action is not a partisan issue and that taking action brings economic growth. Since California took aggressive climate action starting in 2003, its economy has grown faster than the rest of the country.

With regard to climate deniers, he remarked, “Imagine how stupid you must be to think greenhouse gases are not a pollutant!” He added, “Bringing back coal is like bringing back Blockbuster. I mean, what are you talking about?”

California is clearly the state of entertainers because Governor Jerry Brown was also very entertaining. He spoke about an agreement signed today between the U.S. Climate Alliance and Mexico and Canada. The agreement calls for the 15 governors, Mexico, and Canada to start a North American Climate Leadership Dialogue to “address topics including clean transportation and zero-emission vehicles, vehicle efficiency, clean technology, supporting clean power while reducing reliance on coal-fired electricity, carbon pricing initiatives, and reducing short-lived climate pollutants.”

The entertaining part was when Governor Brown went a little long in his comments and started quoting Machiavelli. The moderator interjected and Governor Brown said, “This is the first time I’ve referenced Machiavelli. This conference and I have a few more obscure references to make before the conference is over.” Although he was chatty and entertaining, the thrust of his comments was that as we work to take climate action, we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. While here, protesters have heckled him for not doing enough and for talking to oil and gas interests, Republicans, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We have to build coalitions and take the steps we can, he noted. At the same time, we need to acknowledge the enormity of the task before us and work with urgency.

Governor Inslee of Washington noted that the U.S. Climate Alliance formed within 48 hours of the President announcing his intent that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. (Always remember it takes four years to withdraw, so the President saying he wants out is not the same thing as the U.S. getting out. For now, we are still in the Paris Agreement.)

“If it were a separate nation,” Inslee said, “the U.S. Climate Alliance would be the third largest economy in the world. We’re here to say the equivalent of the third largest economy of the world is with you.”

I’m pleased that 15 U.S. governors have come together in the U.S. Climate Alliance. I look forward to our work together to increase our individual and collective ambition in the climate arena.

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