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GLOBAL CLIMATE SUMMIT: Katehi urges national strategy to inspire change and courage

By Dave Jones on November 16, 2010 in University

At Jackson Hall and the Global Pavilion
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Photos by Karin Higgins/UC Davis

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Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi on Monday (Nov. 15) urged the U.S. government “to stand up and lead” in the climate change crisis, and said UC Davis is doing the kind of environmental research that can help lead the world to sustainability.

“It is time for a national strategy that will inspire change and courage,” she said. “It is time for this global movement to have the federal government as a true believer, partner and driver.”

She spoke to an estimated 1,200 people at the opening session of the Governors’ Global Climate Summit 3, which concludes today at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. Click here for the live webcast.

Read about why Gov. Schwarzenegger picked UC Davis as the venue for his third annual climate summit.

Watch video interviews with summit participants, including tropical forest advocate Harrison Ford.

“Leaders lead in crisis,” Katehi said in her welcoming address. “And it is time for the United States to claim its place in this global fight against climate change “The world is watching. And many of us are acting. Right now.”

Schwarzenegger is among those leading the charge and acting at the subnational level — states, regions and provinces.

“Let us forge ahead and build a great new coalition dedicated to our cause,” the governor said in his opening remarks. “I know that together we can usher in a new era and build a cleaner and brighter and more prosperous future, so I say let’s do it.”

Turning the scientific community loose

The summit’s opening session began with excerpts from the documentary film Climate Refugees, about people whose land is being lost to climate change — for example, a rising sea level that in one case threatens a South Pacific island nation, Tuvalu, population about 12,000.

Climate Refugees is not about an abstract concept,” Katehi said. “It is about real people whose lives are being devastated by real change.”

“And that is why we are here today, to find solutions, before it is too late.”

Such problem solving will take money, of course, which is where former Secretary of State George Shultz stepped in with his call for “sustained and strong support for research and development in the area of energy.”

“I’ve been around it enough myself to know, there are game-changers out there,” Shultz said in his address during the opening session. “You turn the American scientific establishment on to this subject in a big way, they’ll think of things that nobody’s thought of. They’re not tweaking the present way we do things, but think of entirely different ways to go about it, and I can see some, right there. So let’s make that kind of a commitment.”

Schwarzenegger and other subnational leaders are seeking a different kind of commitment — by national and international leaders to agree to work together on climate change.

That was the goal last December at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, or COP 15, to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. “There was a tremendous buildup going into Copenhagen,” Schwarzenegger said. “Some pundits described it as the most important world conference since the end of the Second World War. Yet, as we all know, it failed to produce a binding international agreement.

“But, as I always said, as they move forward and start working on and hopefully get, eventually, a binding agreement, we should do our work, the subnationals should do their work.”

Schwarzenegger and other leaders point to their subnational successes, to show national governments what can be done.

‘This is people voting’

California, for example, touts Assembly Bill 32, the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, which just this month emerged victorious from what Schwarzenegger described as “an epic drama, an epic battle. … A battle of old versus new, a battle of David versus Goliath.”

Shultz took the stage still basking in the AB 32 victory. Two weeks shy of his 90th birthday, he raised his clenched fists and successfully exhorted the audience to join him in a “No on 23” chant — referring to the Nov. 2 ballot measure that would have delayed AB 32’s implementation.

Shultz chaired the "no on 23" campaign, which scored a margin of victory of 22 percentage points and carried the day in every age group, every ethnic group, among men and women — and even in conservative San Diego County.

“This is people voting,” the veteran diplomat said. “That’s different from politicians arguing and deciding this or that. This was a vote, head-on.”

Katehi said California voters, by rejecting Proposition 23, “reaffirmed their commitment to cutting-edge climate change solutions.”

She expressed pride in California’s “strong-as-steel backbone and its crystal-clear vision.” She added: “Here at UC Davis, we share this commitment, this determination and this vision. We are in the fight for a clean future.”

The chancellor introduced Schwarzenegger by saying that his action hero movie roles had prepared him well for his new status as a “climate action hero — someone with the courage to upset the status quo, someone with the muscle to create groundbreaking policies. And someone with the stamina to fight the powerful backlash, such as Prop. 23, when the status quo tried to undo climate-change accomplishments.”

Schwarzenegger said California as a whole showed strength in the Proposition 23 battle. “The (Texas) oil companies flexed their muscles, and we flexed back,” he said.

After Copenhagen, he said, the “big polluters and the special interests and their lobbyists” probably threw a party to celebrate — thinking that they had brought the environmental progress to a screeching halt.

“The only thing is, I wouldn’t celebrate too much if I would be them. Because those people clearly have not been here, at this university, and attended this summit here, and seen of all our work,” he said.

“The truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that the green revolution is moving full speed ahead, with or without the international agreement. We are moving ahead, and we are doing our work.”

Forests give way to family survival

Another action hero, Harrison Ford, joined Schwarzenegger on the stage, commending the governor as “a committed environmental leader.”

“With climate progress stalled at the federal and international levels, California has once again become the environmental trendsetter, this time for climate change and forest conservation,” Ford said.

The Indiana Jones star voiced particular interest in the latter. “I’ve seen the plight of the world’s tropical forests and the people who depend on them for their survival,” said Ford, who is a longtime board member of Conservation International. “I’ve seen impoverished farmers who are forced to clear their forests because that is the only means available to them to feed their families, even though they know it will bring them hardship tomorrow.”

He said the process of deforestation — the burning and clearing of land for agricultural or other purposes — accounts for about 16 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than from all the cars, trucks, buses, trains, planes in the world combined.

Conserving Earth’s last remaining forests, he said, is the quickest and most efficient means of addressing climate change. Forest preservation can also deliver a host of other benefits, “from supporting some of the poorest people in the world, who are sustained by these healthy ecosystems, to saving animals and plants, the biodiversity that’s threatened with extinction.”

“But if we don’t seize the opportunity now, we will lose these precious forests, and we will lose the battle against climate change.”

First regulatory market

California’s AB 32, Ford said, will create the world’s first regulatory market for greenhouse gas reductions coming from the protection of tropical forests. “This is a beginning, a way to start providing the payments so desperately needed by indigenous people, local communities and governments in the developing world, who want to protect their forest and the critical services they deliver, but need our support to do so.”

In addition, he said, AB 32 establishes a model worthy of being replicated by other climate policy makers around the world.

Which is Schwarzenegger’s goal. “Because I know that in our countries and in your local governments and in your states and provinces, you have similar challenges,” he told the summit audience. “When the economy is down there is often pressure to sacrifice the environment.

“Well, I've said it many times, that you can protect the environment and the economy at the same time. I hope that our success here in California encourages you to fight back when you have those challenges, to keep fighting and keep fighting and fighting, because the science is on our side, the economics are on our side and the people are on our side.”

More information

Governors’ Global Climate Summit 3: Building the Green Economy

Live webcast, 9:30-11:45 a.m. and 1:30-3:30 p.m. today (Nov. 16)

Transcripts: Chancellor Katehi and Gov. Schwarzenegger

Nov. 15 video (Katehi, Schwarzenegger, Ford and Shultz)

Earlier coverage: “UC Davis researchers present an afternoon of appetizers" (Nov. 15, 2010)

Earlier coverage: “UC Davis hosts Governors' Global Climate Summit 3” (Nov. 5, 2010)

Earlier coverage: “World leaders to gather at Governors’ Global Climate Summit 3 at UC Davis” (Nov. 3, 2010)



Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,