BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opened
his climate change summit on Tuesday by telling attendees from
around the world that they can balance environmental protection
with economic growth.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican who has gained notoriety for his global warming efforts in California, hopes the summit will influence negotiations over a new climate treaty during a U.N. gathering in Poland next month.
Just how countries will cut emissions remains a topic of intense debate, especially as the world grapples with the worsening financial crisis. U.S. and foreign businesses, as well as some European countries, have questioned whether cutting emissions will cost too much.
Schwarzenegger said states, provinces and countries can cut emissions by forming partnerships, as he has done as governor.
"I still have friends in the business world that come to me and say that this is going to hurt the economy," Schwarzenegger said in his opening remarks. "But of course, we believe very strongly it is going to help the economy."
Schwarzenegger has signed partnerships with governors of seven
Western states and four Canadian provinces to develop regional
cap-and-trade systems. He also has an agreement with the state of
New York to explore linking California's future carbon market with
a trading system in the Northeast.
The governor also has signed agreements with the United Kingdom
and Australia's premier in Victoria to combat climate change.
Schwarzenegger addressed attendees from 19 other countries and
17 states. He announced the conference in September and sent out
some 1,400 invitations to regional government representatives,
scientists, policy experts and industry representatives.
The two-day summit at the Beverly Hilton Hotel has drawn more than 800 attendees to discuss strategies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The governor's message was reinforced by President-elect Barack
Obama, who spoke to participants in a taped video.
Obama said the U.S. economy would continue to weaken if climate change and dependence on foreign oil are left unaddressed. He vowed
his administration would vigorously take part in U.N. negotiations
next year on the climate change treaty.
"Once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change," Obama said.
Tackling climate change can create millions of new jobs as the U.S. invests in technologies to promote solar and wind power, biofuels and cleaner coal-fired plants, Obama said. He said he favors a federal cap-and-trade system that could bring U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, the same target adopted by California two years ago.
Obama also wants to commit the U.S., one of the world's biggest producers of greenhouse gases, to cutting emissions 80 percent by
2050. Scientists say such ambitious goals must be reached to minimize the consequences of rising global temperatures.
The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said temperatures worldwide could increase between 4 degrees and 11
degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 unless nations reduce their emissions.
In California alone, the annual cost of warming-related damage to public and private property could top $23 billion if no actions are taken, according to a University of California, Berkeley report released last week.
Schwarzenegger's conference included government officials from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland and the United Kingdom.
Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida and Democratic governors Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Jim Doyle of Wisconsin are cohosts.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)