LOS ANGELES -- Sub-national leaders from over 50 countries gathered last week in Los Angeles, California as part of Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2nd annual Global Governor’s Climate Summit. Topics ranged from public health impacts of climate change to technological solutions to the role of youth leadership and education. The summit kicked off with a surprise appearance by Harrison Ford, announcing the establishment of a new collaboration convened by Conservation International called Team Earth , which will focus its first effort on global deforestation. Forests emerged as a recurring theme of the discussions here. Motivated by concern that deforestation must not be excluded from the negotiations of a climate treaty this time around, 11 governors from the U.S., Brazil, and Indonesia signed a memo addressed to their nations’ presidents, pressing for a robust deforestation policy mechanism to come out of Copenhagen.
Leaders from across the globe also expressed growing concern about preparing their citizens to adapt to climate change . It is clear that leaders on the local level are worried about the impacts that are already being felt by their citizens and are anticipating their growing role in implementing policies to address adaptation, in addition to greenhouse gas reductions. Some have even begun to classify jobs in climate adaptation as “green jobs” and are working to expand the number of these jobs in their jurisdictions.
Another overarching takeaway is the sense that local and regional governments embrace their important role in combating climate change, repeatedly referring to policies implemented at sub-national levels across the globe as examples for national action. In this spirit of collaboration across jurisdictions, Governor Schwarzenegger and 30 other global leaders signed a declaration reaffirming the need for greater efforts to collaborate on climate change solutions and to support the recognition of the role of sub-national governments in the climate change fight. California’s Governor also signed a Statement of Intent with the UNDP that the state will work with African nations to share successful climate policies, and an agreement with the Governor of Jiangsu Province in China  to form a partnership to further reduce GHG emissions. This state-to-province partnership is China’s first sub-national agreement to reduce GHG emissions, a positive step in laying the groundwork for multi-lateral agreements at the national level.
Perhaps the most dominant theme of the summit was the call from leaders from the NGO, business and governmental communities for determined action at the national level worldwide. U.S. Governors and their international counterparts are confident in their ability and will to move forward with local- and regional-level policy, but there is growing insistence that national leaders take the reins on comprehensive climate policy and international leadership. Oregon’s Governor Ted Kulongoski evoked enthusiastic applause (including from this former Oregonian) for his direct demands that national leaders stop discussing change and start acting, as sub-national governments have done.
Jessica Shipley is a Solutions Fellow