What the Gov’s Global Climate Summit and “The Goonies” Have in Common

When the parents aren’t taking action, sometimes the kids need to step in and solve the problem in whatever ways they can piece together.

"GGCS 3" is Governor Schwarzenegger's third climate summit. (Photo: Governor's Office)

I’m at the Governors’ Global Climate Summit in Davis this week, where representatives from more than 80 regional and local governments have come together for two days to try to figure out ways to reduce emissions and put the brakes on climate change.  The idea is that since last year’s UN climate summit in Copenhagen failed to produce a binding international agreement, and the US Congress can’t get it together to agree on any sort of energy and/or climate bill, cities and states and provinces can’t stand by and do nothing while the international community haggles and CO2 levels continue to creep higher.

The whole thing kind of reminds me of The Goonies. You know, the movie from the 1980s?  Remember in Goonies, when a whole neighborhood was going to be demolished because the residents couldn’t afford to save their homes? The parents didn’t know what to do and they just gave up, resigned to their fates. But then all the neighborhood kids, realizing that their parents weren’t going to protect them after all, got together in a rag-tag bunch and saved the day, and the neighborhood. Granted they saved their homes by finding a pirate ship filled with gold and jewels, but you get the idea.

That’s kind of what’s happening here at the Governor’s Global Climate Summit. The parents (i.e. national governments) aren’t acting, so the kids (i.e. “subnational” governments) are getting together to fight climate change where they can. It might not be the most streamlined way to address the problem, but according to host governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, there’s really no choice.

“We are doing our work,” he said, in his opening remarks Monday. “The green revolution is moving full speed ahead with or without an international agreement.”

This Schwarzenegger’s third and last GGCS. It’s unclear how effective the first two were, and how effective this one will be. At the least, they have raised the profile of climate efforts taking place at the subnational level, and they do provide an opportunity for regional leaders from around the world to share ideas and strategies. Specific accomplishments are listed on the summit website.  Tuesday afternoon, Schwarzenegger is expected to announce the launch of “R20,” or “Regions of Climate Action,” an idea he first floated at UN climate talks in Copenhagen last year. It’s a group of more than 60 (so far) regional governments, organizations, and institutions, with the goal of working together to “expand the global green economy, create new green jobs and build commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a FAQ sheet from the Governor’s press office.  R20 is incorporated as a non-profit organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

Also expected tomorrow is an announcement detailing a new partnership between California and provinces in Brazil and Mexico, focused on reforestation.  Eventually, forestry projects in these regions may provide international offset opportunities for California corporations under the state’s cap and trade program, a Cal-EPA spokesperson said.  News of this announcement was actually leaked by actor Harrison Ford, who spoke to the attendees as a board member for Conservation International.

Maybe what the “Terminator” needs to get this Goonies remake in the can is an assist from “Indiana Jones.”

  • Kim Williams

    What a joke. Schwarzenegger is working for the big energy/big solar lobbyist to promote their agenda of bypassing distributed power that benefits consumers in lieu of industrial-scale solar that decimates our prime agricultural lands, our pristine open space and our sensitive wildlife habitat in order to perpetuate an energy monopoly. The only thing about this is the color of the money going into venture capitalist pockets as a result.

  • UCSBcpa

    Kim Williams,

    So, what should we do, are you suggesting that sending $420,000,000,000 a year to governments that do not see eye to eye with America (Saudi, VZ, Russia, Iran, Iraq) is a better idea? Or are you tied up with those “do-gooders” as Texas Governor called the environmental industry.

    Also, last time I checked, America never went to war over Wind, Solar, Geothermal; but can you say the same about Oil?

    Lastly, I am from Santa Barbara, where the initial oil spill that started many of these environmental groups came from, so maybe I may be ULTRA aware of issues like this, and you well, not so much aware of how great our oceans are, or maybe you have never traveled to the Gulf, Alaska, or even Santa Barbara Channel’s; but the point is simple: Why would we want to use a finite (big word for at some point ending) resource and subject ourselves to massive pollution (ever been downtown Los Angeles or perhaps looked into the fact that Ashma rates, lung cancer rates, and many other “unfortunate side effects” of our cars and energy consumption; but lucky for the rest of us, many have!

    Thank GOODNESS for AB 32 and every single public transportation system we have and will expand on in the future.

    I know live in San Francisco, where I have given up my car and my 75 minute commutes that was the regular when I lived in Los Angeles, maybe you should try to!

    • Kim Williams

      You completely miss the point. We already have enough solar projects in the CPUC approval que to exceed California’s mandate to produce 33% of California’s energy from renewable sources by 2020. We don’t need to eliminate our pristine open space, sensitive species habitat or prime agriculture lands in order to produce energy, especially when we haven’t even begun as a nation to properly explore distributed rooftop solar power generation.

      You argue that unless we continue to support an outdated energy paradigm that benefits energy companies over homeowners, which is exactly what industrial-scale solar projects do, then we are doomed to stay beholden to oil and foreign interest. How funny that you would have us reduce our independence on foreign oil and increase our dependence on foreign food in the process. Every year we lose more fertile farmland to development. Every year we import greater amounts of foreign food. The collapse of every great nation has begun when they lose the ability to feed themselves.

      Europe introduced feed-in tariffs resulting in countries like Germany and Spain, (relatively low solarity zones compared to California) becoming world leaders in solar energy production. They didn’t do this by using up what little natural resources they possess. They did this by guaranteeing a fair market price for homeowners who sold excess rooftop solar energy into the grid after taking care of their own energy needs. This dramatically reduced energy rates for consumers while at the same time reducing fossil fuel dependence. In England a program was recently started that takes this one step further. There the energy companies are taking responsibility for owning and installing the rooftop system, with energy going to the homeowner in exchange for using their rooftop space and excess power going to the grid.

      Rather than subsidizing venture capitalist solar startups that destroy our agricultural and biological resources in order to make a profit selling renewable energy to PG&E and Southern Edison, who in turn use the high cost of renewable energy as a reason to increase our energy rates, our government should follow Europes lead and put energy production into the hands of the people. Too bad that as long as we have a government and politicians beholden to corporate lobbyist this will never happen.

  • http://www.davidthayer.org David Thayer

    Thanks for covering the conference, Gretchen!

    Whether you agree about Climate Change or not, Schwarzenegger and others (like Prime Minister Cameron) see that opportunities in the global green economy begin in regional ones. Sub-national governments see there’s money on the table to put people to work and promote energy (and increasingly water) security. Whether they’re here to combat Climate Change or not, it makes sense to come to the table and get there early.

  • JohnQPublic

    Gretchen Weber and Kim Williams your political babble is wasted on a small group (“subnational” governments) at the Governors’ Global Climate Summit who will never come to an understanding/agreement to control energy and climate. Your audience is too small and not directed to the average of a group that includes 90 percent of society. The remaining 10 percent are oil and energy executives and major stockholders. Addressing the public must be practical and the message must show the consequences of continued abuse of our ecosystem and climate. A message showing these consequences will naturally fall on deaf ears since dirty industry supports economies of these communities (“subnational” governments). Grassroots actions and journalistic feats are mostly lost, when only a well prepared appeal to our political representatives will bring our goal of a clean and natural planet closer.