California has spearheaded efforts among the U.S. states to pass far-reaching laws on energy and the environment, sometimes bypassing the federal government. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is urging state and provincial leaders around the world to follow that example. Mike O'Sullivan reports, a California conference brought pledges of support to fight climate change from regional officials in 19 countries.
The two-day conference opened Tuesday with a videotaped message from U.S. president-elect Barack Obama, who assured the 800 participants that he will act decisively on global climate change. Mr. Obama promised to set annual targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and achieve a further 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050. He also restated his support for a cap-and-trade system to cut overall emissions by allowing companies to exchange pollution credits.
The taped remarks drew a standing ovation from most participants at the meeting, which was billed as a global climate summit. They included scientists and state and provincial officials from 19 countries.
Schwarzenegger co-hosted the conference with the governors of Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Wisconsin.
California has been at the forefront of efforts to limit emissions of so-called greenhouse gases, which most scientists believe are triggering climate change. In 2006, Schwarzenegger signed sweeping legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions in his state.
The Bush administration has refused to allow California to implement its plan to impose strict limits on auto and truck emissions. Federal officials say they want uniform standards across the country. California and more than a dozen states have filed a lawsuit to challenge the decision.
Schwarzenegger told participants of the conference that U.S. regional leaders have a responsibility to tackle climate problems, and not leave them to Washington.
"This is so important for our country because we have been the biggest polluters in the world, and it is about time that we as a country recognize that and that we work together with other nations in order to fight global warming," he said.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said global temperatures could increase between two and six degrees Celsius in this century if carbon emissions are not reduced. Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich said dangerous changes are underway already.
"The polar icecaps are melting. The snows on Mount Kilimanjaro are melting. The level of the oceans are rising, while the shorelines are receding," he said. "These are challenges that confront all of us."
The Los Angeles meeting ended with a writen pledge from the regional officials to work together on climate issues. Schwarzenegger and the governors of 12 other U.S. states signed the document, along with representatives of provinces and states in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, India and Indonesia. China's leading climate official, Gao Guangsheng, signed the declaration as what was called an "honorary witness."
Schwarzenegger says he hopes the meeting will influence negotiations over a new climate treaty at a United Nations conference in Poland next month.