A few days ago we posted some exciting news about Barack Obama’s video statement about his plan to take on climate change and re-engage the United States “vigorously” in the UN climate negotiations. This video statement was aired at the Governor’s Climate Summit, a two-day event hosted by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as several other state governors from around the United States, and around the world. After Obama’s strong statement (which may well have been the most exciting part), the rest of the summit dealt with bringing together subnational leaders to develop and commit to a new alliance to reduce emissions together. The event was largely symbolic, a beginning demosntration of the participants’ intention to work together in the future.
Nevertheless, there were numerous heartening stories from the various governors around the world. In the province of Aceh in Indonesia, which was battered by the Tsunami in 2004, Governor Irwandi is leading the charge with his “Aceh Green” program to reforest the island, rebuild green, and prevent future deforestation which has been quite rampant. There were three Brazilian governors in attendance from states that include parts of the Amazon, who were all able to report that deforestation rates are on the wane in their provinces. The Prime Minister of British Colombia was happy to report that they have been the first government in North America to institute a revenue-neutral carbon tax on its citizens. Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas and a speculated choice for Obama’s Energy Secretary or EPA head, reminded us all that “there is no such thing as clean coal” (something she may want to be sure to tell Obama if she does end up being picked).
Besides a general agreement to continue working together, participating governments also signed a “Momorandum of Understanding” about committing to find a solution to REDD (Reducing Emissions through Decreased Deforestation) together. Part of this MOU, while decidedly vague, includes in the future setting up some sort of emissions trading scheme between the governors in the north, and the governors in the south. While many of the governors really seemed to be taking the lead on cliamte change in their countries, it’s important to be sure that the governors from the north are reducing emissions where they are, not paying for their emissions to be soaked up elsewhere. For more analysis on the summit, check out these blogs at Celsias, Grist, and the Huffington Post.