Governors’ Global Climate Summit Opens with Eye Toward Copenhagen

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California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger welcomed fellow governors and mayors from around the world to the second Governors’ Global Climate Summit this week with the goal of involving state and local leaders in collective action to solve the global climate crisis.

This year’s summit hopes to build upon the accomplishments of the first, in 2008, where international leaders signed a memorandum of understanding on reducing greenhouse gases from deforestation and reached preliminary agreements on a number of issues related to climate change.

Schwarzenegger sees the Summit as a leg on the road to Copenhagen. He promised the audience that the findings would be sent to UN negotiators and that he would attend talks in Copenhagen to represent what he is calling a “grassroots” sub-national movement on climate change and the green revolution.

“The 20th Century was fueled by dirty oil, dirty cars and dirty coal,” Schwarzenegger said, imploring leaders to put workers from coal mines into solar panel factories and oil workers into biodiesel refineries.

EPA Makes Big Announcement

The biggest announcement of the first day came from U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who lived up to Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire’s introduction stating that Jackson had done more at the EPA in the last eight months on climate change than the EPA had done in the last eight years.

Jackson applauded the morning’s roll-out of the Senate climate bill draft, but she told the audience:

“We are not going to continue with business as usual while we wait for Congress to act. We have the tools and the technologies to move forward today, and we are using them.”

She announced in her keynote address that the EPA had developed a proposal to require large industrial facilities that emit at least 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year — accounting for 70% of stationary emissions in the U.S. — to obtain construction and operating permits covering the emissions. The permits must demonstrate the use of best available control technologies and energy efficiency measures to minimize greenhouse gas emissions when facilities are constructed or significantly modified.

The EPA has yet to calculate the potential emissions reductions or costs, but existing permitting requirements are already having an impact.

New Brunswick Power announced today that the company will close its coal-fired Grand Lake generating station and strip mine when its operating license expires in June 2010, citing that the necessary environmental upgrades would not be economically feasible.

The proposed new regulations are part of a two-step process requiring that the proposed fuel-economy rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks is finalized and takes effect next spring. Under that rule, Clean Air Act permits would automatically be required for stationary sources emitting greenhouse gases. The announcement today focuses these permitting programs on the largest facilities and the biggest emitters of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal goes into a 60 day public comment period. Jackson expects push back.

“Defenders of the status quo are going to oppose this with everything they have," she said. "Very soon, we will hear about doomsday scenarios — with EPA regulating everything from cows to the local Dunkin’ Donuts. But let’s be clear: that is not going to happen.”

Copenhagen as a Major Theme

Topics such as public health implications of climate change and transportation and mobility solutions, as well as strong international participation in the summit, are all seen as helping set the tone for international climate talks in Copenhagen.

“There are policy and investment strategies that reduce carbon footprint and stimulate economic growth. It’s not enough for those strategies to be adopted by the national governments; they must be translated into concrete measures in regions and provinces,” said Olav Kjørven, UN Assistant Secretary General and United Nations Development Program policy director. "Any country as a whole will succeed in responding to climate change only if its regions have the right expertise, technology and sources of investments."

"The ambition of this summit is to allow leaders of regions from around the world to share how they’re able to cope with climate change effects and cut their emissions. It is a major milestone on the way to a just and equitable deal in Copenhagen.”

Leading into Copenhagen, one of the most important topics may be the issue of high global warming potential pollutants. All the panelists, including Mack McFarland, Global Environment Manager at DuPont Fluoroproducts, agreed that HFCs, highly potent greenhouse gases with many thousands of times the global warming power of CO2, ought to be regulated under the Montreal Protocol. McFarland added that an agreement is needed to provide incentives for innovation to provide alternatives.

David Doniger, a policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, believes that agreement to regulate HFCs under the Montreal Protocol can take some of the load off of the Copenhagen talks.

“There’s a chance we can reach an agreement on HFCs in November in Egypt and give a lift to talks in Copenhagen,” he told the audience.

The governor’s summit was launched in partnership with the UNDP and United Nations Environment Program and hosted by a mix of Republican and Democratic state leaders. In addition to Gregoire, joining Schwarzenegger as co-hosts were Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, New York Gov. David Paterson, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle.

At the close of the summit on Friday, participants will sign a joint declaration that is expected to include: commitments to pursue clean transportation and mobility; support for national climate change legislation, not only in the United States, but throughout the world; acknowledgment of the need for greater efforts to address our mutual need to adapt to climate change; and support for the recognition of the role of subnational governments in all aspects of achieving a global climate solution this December in Copenhagen.


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