e360 digest

Five Questions For Jerry Brown
On the West Coast Climate Pact

09 Dec 2013

California Governor Jerry Brown was one of the moving forces behind a new agreement among three Western states and British Columbia to align their policies to combat climate change. Under the pact, signed on Oct. 28 by Brown and the governors of Oregon and Washington, the states and the province agreed to a series of actions, including putting a price on carbon and adopting a low-carbon fuels standard. E360 contributor Paul Rogers spoke with Brown and asked him five questions about the pact and overall efforts to tackle climate change.

1. Why did you sign this pact?

The goal of the pact is to harmonize and intensify the efforts of California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia to reduce greenhouse gases and to lay the foundation for adding more states and provinces in the future.

2. What do you hope will be the practical impact on the rest of the United States?

I hope the practical impact will be to enlist certain other states and contribute to the building up of support for serious climate change initiatives. There is a lot of pushback from the climate skeptics, and
Five questions
Five Questions
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
California Governor Jerry Brown
it’s important that California, which has taken the lead on greenhouse gas reductions, build a strong alliance. And that’s what I intend to do.

3. What do you say to the skeptics who say this is mostly symbolic because there is no money or regulations, or note the fact that in Washington state the Republicans who control the state senate have been resisting passing any kind of binding rules [on climate change]?

Well, there’s plenty of resistance. So far the Republican Party has been taking this anti-climate change policy position, and all I can say is that I’m working to change that. As the science keeps coming in, with very serious consequences, there’s a consequence of no action, and eventually people are going to change. Whether they change in time or not remains the big question

4. There are a lot of people who maybe aren’t denying the science, but who have legitimate concerns about how it might affect their job or industries that their towns depend on. What message do you have for those folks, not just in California, but all along the West Coast as they look at this issue?

Well, there are people differentially impacted. And some policy would require that we mitigate the disproportionate impacts that will be caused by serious climate change initiatives. But that doesn’t mean the problem’s not there. You have to mobilize a country to deal with a storm, or potential fires or floods or earthquakes. You make the investment. And certainly retrofitting people’s homes to deal with various external events, that costs money. That’s a problem. So we’ve got to tackle it. How we work out individual burdens is very important, but it is secondary to the primary challenge, which is to recognize that the science is warning us that humankind has to take significant and serious actions. That is not happening to any degree commensurate with the challenge.

5. What’s your view of how the international community is responding to the issue of climate change?

Well, the paltry outcome of [international climate talks] in Poland [last month] and the other meetings of the Conference of the Parties should be a warning sign that more needs to be done — more by California, more by the United States, more by Europe, and certainly more by China and India. But how we go about that, given the different ways the problem is being viewed, remains very much an open question. But it is probably, if not the most important question facing humanity, it is certainly right up there with others.

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