Schwarzenegger Speaks to World Audience about Climate Change

8:09 AM, Dec 15, 2009   |    comments
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COPENHAGEN, DENMARK -- Gov. Schwarzenegger says world policymakers do not have to choose between a clean environment and economic growth. Schwarzenegger said "we've proved that over and over again in California."

Interviewed by ABC's "Good Morning America" from the Copenhagen conference, he said he thinks world leaders may be risking setback by pushing so aggressively for an agreement on curbing heat-trapping emissions.

Schwarzenegger said that people worried about climate change should pay more attention to companies, universities and "ordinary folks" and not put so much emphasis on a multinational consensus.

He said that type of thinking is "setting yourself up for failure." He also said poor nations have a right to demand that the richer countries help them to meet tougher pollution standards.

Here are Schwarzenegger's prepared remarks, delivered in Copenhagen, Denmark the morning of Dec. 15:

"Distinguished delegates, before I do anything else, let me thank the U.N. and all the people who have worked so hard to make this meeting happen. And I especially want to thank Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for his early attention to the threat of global climate change, and I congratulate him on his great leadership on the issue that has brought us together.

I am delighted and honored to be with you in Copenhagen, a city that distinguishes itself by being so clean you can swim in its harbor.  How happy we would be if all the world's harbors were as clean.

As everyone knows, also in the harbor here is the "Little Mermaid," the statue based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. When I was a boy in Austria, the Andersen fairy tale that I always liked best was The Ugly Duckling.  Looking back, I think the reason I liked it was because it was a tale of transformation. And that spoke to me inside.

I have always believed in the tremendous power of personal transformation. The desire, the hope, the desperate need for transformation is what has brought us together.

The question is: is this also a fairy tale? Is it a dream? Is it a false hope? And if it is not, how do we make it real? This is what I would like to discuss with you today.

Look around this carbon-conscious city and you should feel hope. Copenhagen is often voted one of the most liveable cities in the world.

So how do we make the world itself liveable and sustainable?  Certainly, it would be terrific if the world's governments reached an agreement to put hard caps on greenhouse gases while generously helping poor nations, who are least responsible for and least able to respond to climate change.

Attempting to reach such an agreement is good and important. But why do we put so many hopes and eggs in the big international agreement basket when, according to the UN itself, up to 80 percent of greenhouse gas mitigation will be done at the sub-national level?

In recent weeks, the prospects for this gathering have gone up and down. What will the U.S. or China do, or not do?  Is it a 20% reduction or a 17% reduction? Is the base 1990 or 2005?  Should it be 350 parts per million or 450 parts per million? But what if I said that international agreements, as critical as they are, will never do enough? What if we took that as a given?  Wouldn't that expand the possibilities and approaches for progress we would consider?

My late mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the remarkable woman who started Special Olympics, gave me an insight on this. She was the sister of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Teddy Kennedy.  She knew everyone in American power and politics. But she once told me that while the federal government was important for policies related to Special Olympics, such as equal rights or health care, she never relied on the federal government to build Special Olympics.  She said you need local government, state government, volunteers, corporate sponsors, coaches, celebrities and, of course, families.

She said that no one from the government hugs those kids when they come across the finish line or organizes the competitions so there IS a finish line. No one from the government trains the kids so they don't hurt themselves. She said, no, it's up to us.

And she built a movement, a worldwide movement that has spread to 180 countries. History tells us that movements began with the people, not the government, and then when they became powerful enough, the government responds.

In the U.S., the labor movement, the women's suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam anti-war movement...they did not begin in the corridors of power in Washington.

There is a lesson in this for our cause. While national governments have been fighting over emission targets, sub-national governments have been adopting their own targets and laws and policies. While national governments have been trying for years to define what Kyoto means, businesses and investors are pursuing cutting-edge technologies to solve energy and environmental problems. While national governments debate how carbon caps will affect their economies compared to others, many of their citizens are seeking greener lifestyles on their own.

Government clearly has a major role, but I also believe in the power of the iconoclast, the entrepreneur, the individualist. I believe in the power of the scientists and capitalists and activists. I believe in the power of cities and states and provinces to be laboratories for new ideas, which the national government can then study and adopt.

Too often, I think, we fail to see the potential and the progress that's being made at all these levels. By putting all our eggs in one basket, we fail to see the eggs in other baskets.

Let me give you a few quick examples. Dr. Rajendra Pachuari, who came to an environmental summit I held in California, has his own target. He is replacing kerosene and paraffin lanterns with solar light for 400 million rural people in India. If the nations of the world do not sign a carbon agreement, does that mean the doctor's transformative work in India doesn't count?

In the U.S., in the small town of Roscoe, Texas, a German company has completed the world's largest wind farm. If we don't reach a major carbon agreement, does that mean the Texas wind farm doesn't really count?

With the assistance of Greenpeace, four of the world's largest meat producers agreed not to buy cattle from newly deforested areas of the Amazon. That doesn't count?

The head of an energy company in China recently said of renewable and efficient energy, "We think this is a new business for us, not a burden." China is becoming a leader in developing and manufacturing renewable energy equipment. That doesn't count?

Yes, sure, they all count. And they reveal that something is happening. Something that is below the national level. California is working with cities, states, provinces, regions and nations, including Mexican states, Canadian and Chinese provinces and European nations.  We're even working with the UN to assist developing countries, especially in Africa.

We are trying to foment change and collaboration and movement.  We're doing everything we can to change the balance of power on the environment. And when I talk about California, I realize that while we may lead America and many other countries environmentally, Denmark here is already one-third more energy efficient. And Europe, as a whole, is also a leader.

But the reason for discussing my adopted home state is that California is the seventh largest economy in the world and also America's trendsetter, so what we do has consequences.  And we in California do not believe - and we do not behave - as if progress has to wait for Washington or Beijing or Kyoto.

In California, we are proceeding on renewable energy requirements and a cap and trade system for greenhouse gases. If hydro is included, we will get 45 percent of our energy from renewables in ten years.

We are proceeding on the world's first low carbon fuel standards and limiting greenhouse gas emissions from cars, which the Obama Administration has now adopted.

We are proceeding in a major way on green tech, no matter what happens in Washington or Copenhagen. Billions of dollars, nearly 60 percent of all venture capital in America, flows to California, and this is creating the critical mass of money and intellect to develop new green technologies. Leaders from around the world are coming to California to see what we're doing.

I took the French Foreign Trade Minister to a business in San Francisco called Solazyme, which was recently named the most innovative bio-energy company. They've come up with a way to convert algae into a fuel that is 90% cleaner than petroleum-based fuels. The U.S. Navy is going to use that fuel to power some of its ships.

From what I see in the research labs and venture capital start-ups around the globe, I believe the world's businesses will move to solar and wind and other alternatives faster than people expect.

Kenya already gets nearly three-quarters of its power from hydroelectric and geothermal. And next month it will begin work on a $760 million wind farm that by 2012 will increase Kenya's power supply by about 30%.

The uplifting thing is that the developing nations will be able to leapfrog into a green economy and skip the fossil-fueled industrial revolution.

I believe we have economics on our side. Since the supply of wind or sun or algae is unlimited, their prices will not jump.  That cannot be said of oil, the supply of which limited and declining.  That cannot be said of coal, whose costs of extraction, labor and transportation are bound to rise. So I believe technological and economic forces will overtake the political and regulatory efforts of national governments. We are beginning one of history's great transitions - the transition to a new economic foundation for the 21st Century and beyond.

Shouldn't we organize to encourage this transition even as we continue to work toward international compacts? If this conference does not get a strong agreement, some will say that Copenhagen has failed - that we talk grandly but we are fooling ourselves, much like in the fairy tale, "The Emperor Has No Clothes".

Others will say that any agreement that is reached isn't enough because the world is going to melt and we're all going to die.

Others will say, "Look at those crazy people trying to wreck the global economy." No, ladies and gentlemen, this conference is automatically and already a success. Kyoto brought the world's focus to what must be done.

We didn't know then what we know now. We didn't have as much experience with the science we would research or the hurdles we would face. Kyoto made us think differently about the world.

Perhaps the real success of Copenhagen is to give us the opportunity to think differently. Perhaps the success comes in realizing that something different needs to be done, and in fact is already being done.  It is being done at the sub-national level.

And I would ask the UN to convene a climate summit like Copenhagen for cities, states, provinces and regions. I will be happy to host such a summit in California or anywhere the UN wants to hold it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the world's governments alone cannot make the progress that is needed on global climate change.  They need the cities, the states, the provinces, the regions. They need the corporations, the activists, the scientists, the universities.  They need the individuals whose vision and determination create movements.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us regain our momentum, let us regain our purpose, let us regain our hope by liberating the transformative power beneath the national level.  That can be the great contribution of Copenhagen.

Thank you for inviting me. Thank you for your kind attention and warm hospitality. And thank you for your great passion and hard work on the very important issue that has brought us together."

The Associated Press

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