Last week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger invited hundreds of the most influential leaders in climate issues from more than 50 states, provinces and countries to Los Angeles for the Governor’s Global Climate Summit. Not only did he invite members of the government, private and non-profit sectors, he also provided 100 complimentary full access passes to youth activists from around the world, including the California Student Sustainability Coalition. Which is how I came to find myself at the summit. Really? Me? A World Leader?
The two day summit ended with the signing of a major climate protection declaration that outlined a collective plan to turn goals into action, in addition to creating a list of agenda items to present to the United Nations in Poland this December. The meeting in Poland represents the next step towards a global climate agreement to be negotiated in Copenhagen in December 2009. (Governor Schwarzenegger has invited youth groups to attend that meeting as well — hopefully I’ll make the Governator’s list!) This was an historic event for everyone who cares about the health of the planet.
Some of the major topics discussed included the obvious need for overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, implementation of alternative energy and transportation technologies, carbon offsets/caps/credits/taxes, the effects of deforestation and mis-distribution of resources, and the pressing need to re-evaluate our priorities and our personal behavior choices.
Other discussions included the importance of creating a comprehensive universal system for mandating caps on total emissions (which would require creating a universal carbon credit standard), a transparent reporting system, with a structure for verification and accountability, and specific requirements for reporting emission reduction baselines. Although the importance of creating a structured system for carbon emission reduction is obvious, the actual implementation of climate policy on a global level has been a battle for over a decade, as we all know from the results of the Kyoto Protocol.
There was constructive debate about which aspects of climate protection are a global priority. And it was agreed that when broken down by regions and field sectors, each representative group had its own plan of action for how to prioritize its own climate agenda. Many of the representatives talked about direct emission reductions vs. carbon offsets, new technologies vs. behavior changes and conservation, carbon caps vs. carbon taxes, economic prosperity vs. deforestation. Although the collected group could not agree on which facet of climate protection is the number one global priority, they did agree that all facets must be included, and that collaboration from the government, private, non-profit and education sector is absolutely necessary in creating and implementing climate policy.
California has been a leader in creating Climate policy with the passing of AB 32 in August 2006. At the summit, Governor Schwarzenegger made it clear that “it’s better to lead by example, than to wait for others to make things happen”. He and others also made clear that other countries are doing more than they are given recognition for, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, and Mexico.
Being in that room with all those truly amazing leaders as the conference drew to a close, and looking around knowing that everyone in that room plays a crucial role in the future of our planet and our people, made me realize that we *all* play a crucial role in the future of our planet and our people, from the heights of conversation at a summit like this one to the choices we all make in our every day lives.
You can see footage from the summit on the official Climate Summit website.