Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday criticized the upcoming U.N. climate talks, saying they promote countries’ empty promises on emissions reductions and funding.
What happened: Speaking at an environmental justice conference put on by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Schwarzenegger — who signed California’s first economywide greenhouse gas mandate in 2006 — said the international climate process was largely an exercise in futility.
“What does a promise and a pledge mean in the end?” he asked. “Nothing. Over and over, year after year, they make these pledges and they come out to declare victory, but then nothing is getting done.”
Schwarzenegger said he wanted the international community and environmentalists to take a different approach than the annual Conference of Parties, which is taking place next week in Glasgow, Scotland. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and 15 lawmakers are planning to attend.
“I think it’s set up the wrong way,” Schwarzenegger said. “Every time you meet and you meet and you meet, and now decades later, you have the same problems as you have had decades before, you ask yourself, ‘How much longer do you want to go and do the same thing?’ Remember what Einstein said, ‘The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.’ You’re not going to get different results.”
He said the basic U.N. model of having national leaders make commitments was flawed, pointing to President Bill Clinton’s signing of the Kyoto Protocol and the Senate’s subsequent refusal to ratify it.
“Same thing: Biden can go over to Glasgow and he can promise everything,” he said. “But as you could see, he cannot get anything passed right now.”
Schwarzenegger didn’t go into detail about what he would want to change about the U.N. process, but he said he wanted it to be more focused on the public and for governments to simplify their messaging around climate to emphasize “pollution” rather than coral reefs, polar bears and icebergs.
“Environmentalists have this kind of great problem talking to each other and trying to outdo each other with how smart they are and how much research they’ve done,” he said. “But in the meantime, they’re missing the most important thing, which is communicating the proper way with the public.”
Cap-and-trade spending: Schwarzenegger also questioned the state’s decision to spend roughly $500 million per year in greenhouse gas auction proceeds on its high-speed rail project. The fund was originally meant to be used to reduce emissions, but lawmakers and governors have increasingly been tapping it for other purposes, including a drinking water fund for disadvantaged communities.
“I’m very passionate about the high-speed rail, but, you know, I would not use that money for the high-speed rail necessarily,” he said. “It was supposed to go in different directions, but, you know, it’s a gray area. Every governor feels different about that. But I think that one should know, traditionally, we have never been really good with the monies that were allocated for one specific thing.”
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