, November 18, 2008 (ENS) - In Los Angeles today, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger welcomed hundreds of attendees from more than 50 states, provinces and countries to the Governors' Global Climate Summit. At the end of their two-day meeting, participants are expected to sign a declaration outlining their plans for turning climate goals into action.
The summit has already led to a signed agreement between U.S. governors and governors from Brazil and Indonesia to reduce forestry-related greenhouse gas emissions. It is the first state-to-state, sub-national agreement focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and land degradation.
"Tropical deforestation accounts for 20 percent of all human-caused carbon emissions in the world, and the governors signing these MOUs with us manage more than 60 percent of the world's tropical forest lands," Governor Schwarzenegger said.
"With this agreement, we are focusing our collective efforts on the problem and requiring our states to jointly develop rules, incentives and tools to ensure reduced emissions from deforestation and land degradation," Schwarzenegger said. "We are also sending a strong message that this issue should be front and center during negotiations for the next global agreement on climate change."
Clearing the Amazon rainforest in the Middle Land, State of Para, Brazil, 2004. (Photo © Greenpeace/ Alberto Cesar)
The agreement commits the U.S. States of California, Illinois and Wisconsin to work with the governors of six states and provinces within Indonesia and Brazil to help slow and stop tropical deforestation, the cutting and burning of trees to convert land to grow crops and raise livestock, and land degradation through joint projects and incentive programs.
It was signed by Governor Antônio Waldez Góes da Silva, Amapa, Brazil; Governor Eduardo Braga, Amazonas, Brazil; Governor Blario Maggi, Mato Grosso, Brazil; Governor Ana Júla de Vasconcelos Carepa, Para, Brazil; Governor Yusof Irwandi, Aceh, Indonesia; and Governor Barnamas Suebu, Papua, Indonesia.
"There is scientific consensus that the planet is close to a 'tipping point,' where continued growth in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will result in successively larger disruptions of global biogeochemical, ecological, economic and social systems," summit organizers say in a statement introducing the two-day event. "The development of a strong action plan and a global consensus around a post-Kyoto climate accord will be critical if the world hopes to avoid the most catastrophic impacts from climate change."
The summit is intended to create opportunities for consensus on climate issues ahead of next month's UN climate change conference in Poland where governments will work towards a climate accord to take effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
Four U.S. governors who are working to curb climate change in their own states are acting as co-hosts - Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger opens the Governor's Global Climate Summit. (Photos courtesy Office of the Governor)
Governor Schwarzenegger says the summit is rooted in the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which made California the first state to impose a cap on all greenhouse gas emissions.
"When California passed its global warming law two years ago, we were out there on an island, so we started forming partnerships everywhere we could," the governor said. "We teamed up with Great Britain, the Canadian provinces, the Western and Northeastern states and with states like those of my co hosts-Illinois, Florida, Kansas, Wisconsin and more. And right here, for the first time, we have officials from China, India, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and across the world in the same summit, working toward the same goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and growing green economies in our own backyards."
Following the governor's remarks, participants saw a pre-recorded video message from President-elect Barack Obama.
"Few challenges facing America - and the world - are more urgent than combating climate change," Obama said. "Many of you are working to confront this challenge, but too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office."
Obama will not take office until January 20, 2009, so he will not attend the meeting in Poland, but he has asked members of Congress who are attending the conference as observers to report back to him on what they learn there.
Obama's approach meets with the approval of Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "This is exactly the kind of leadership the country and the world have been waiting for," she said. "President-elect Obama's statement makes clear that he's ready to roll up his sleeves and deliver the action that is needed to protect our climate, our economy, and our national security. He is setting the right goals and choosing the right policies."
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the Governors' Summit is providing an opportunity for collaboration and sharing of views.
The Summit emphasizes a sectoral approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions with sector-specific breakout sessions focusing on specific actions in the forestry; cement, iron, steel and aluminum; energy; and transportation sectors. Together, these sectors account for the vast majority of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Today, officials from China, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and the European Union shared sectoral panels with NGOs such as the Nature Conservancy and the Climate Group as well as energy companies like BP America and Pacific Gas & Electric.
Participants at the Governors' Global Climate Summit
Participants heard Leon Panetta, former White House chief of staff and co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission outline ocean policy priorities for the incoming Obama administration and Democratic-controlled Congress.
Panetta urged the new administration to establish a coherent national ocean policy, improve federal coordination of ocean science and resource management, and invest in ocean science to better understand and predict climate change and its impacts on oceans and coastal economies.
Tomorrow, the day will begin with a message from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and will feature a dialogue among the governors and world leaders on what responses the climate challenge has evoked.
"Florida's rapid progress has been possible only through partnership agreements with the United Kingdom and Germany, and with the help of my good friend, Governor Schwarzenegger," Florida Governor Charlie Crist said. "Progress comes only as we work together - not at the expense of future economic growth - but as a necessity for the future prosperity of all nations and states."
"This Summit is an opportunity to strengthen important relationships with business and government officials nationally and internationally and develop climate change strategies that will save us money, create jobs, help secure our world and improve our air and water," Wisconsin Governor Doyle said.
"There is an incredible opportunity here to get our nation's economy back on track by creating green jobs and becoming a world leader in the development of clean energy technologies," Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius said. "In Kansas, our farms and fields can produce tomorrow's energy through biofuels and clean, renewable wind. Rural America is going to play an important part in securing energy independence for our nation."
"Illinois has been a leader in the Midwest and nationally in developing innovative strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change," Illinois Governor Blagojevich said. "Playing a leading role in the Governors' Summit will give us a chance to meet with world leaders and to learn from each other about how to most effectively tackle this urgent global issue and accelerate the transition to a low carbon society."
Showcasing the economic success of California's environmental leadership, the Governors' Summit features more than 30 clean-tech companies displaying green technologies including electric cars, solar-powered flashlights and non-toxic cleaning products during the two-day Climate Solutions Showcase.
To ensure that the summit leaves no carbon footprint, EcoSecurities is donating voluntary carbon offsets from its portfolio to neutralize 100 percent of the emissions associated with the event. The offsets being used are high quality voluntary emission reduction credits, selected to honor visiting country representatives, as well as highlight the first two agricultural methane projects listed by the California Climate Action Registry.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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