Schwarzenegger Pushes Green Agenda California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has put global warming front and center for his administration, including signing a pact that aims to reduce his state's emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020.
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Schwarzenegger Pushes Green Agenda

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Schwarzenegger Pushes Green Agenda

Schwarzenegger Pushes Green Agenda

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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Deborah Amos.


And I'm Madeleine Brand.

And now another installment in our yearlong Climate Connection series, a look at how climate is changing people and how people are changing climate. Today we hear from one person trying to change the climate: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

AMOS: Schwarzenegger has put global warming fun and center for his administration, including signing the Global Warming Solutions Act. It's the nation's most aggressive attempt to cut greenhouse gasses. Its goal is to reduce California's emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020.

BRAND: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joins me now. Welcome, Governor, to DAY TO DAY.

Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Republican, California): Well, thank you very much, Madeleine. It's nice to talk to you.

BRAND: You have created an image for yourself as the green governor. You're not running for reelection - you can't, actually - you can't run for president. So is this your political legacy?

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: I'm interested in one thing and that is to fix California, doing everything we can to bring the economy back and to make the economy boom, and we also have to protect the environment.

So we were very aggressive since I've come into office to do all kinds of things to protect the environment, if it's the Green Building Initiative or it is the Ocean Action Plan, or to preserve 25 million acres of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, or to make a commitment to roll back our greenhouse gasses to the 1990 level by the year 2020 and then an additional 80 percent by the year 2050; all of those kinds of things we started doing as soon as I came into office. And we're going to continue working very hard to be out there in the front and to be a leader in the environmental protection and fighting global warming.

BRAND: Now, you have run into some opposition from your fellow Republicans on some of these issues. Do you worry about your base?

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: It doesn't have much to do with the Republicans versus Democrats, because as you know, you know, we all breathe the same air, and we all drink the same water. I have just talked to, you know - at the National Mayor's Conference, where there was like, you know, 500 or 600 mayors there, that all are part of this environmental movement. The United States is very much on its way to move forward; we just now have to convince the federal government to do the same thing.

BRAND: Well, by doing this, by jetting all over the world and coming up with agreements with other governors and mayors, and in fact other world leaders, are you in effect thumbing your nose at President Bush, at the White House, who refuse to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol?

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: You know, I'm going to move forward and do what is best for California and I'm also thinking about the rest of the world simultaneously. Because even though California is a small place, when you look at the globe, but I think the power of influence that we have makes us an equivalent of a whole continent. And so I want to use that power of influence that we have and convince other states and other countries to come in and to join us. The only way we can be successful in this push to fight global warming is if we do it together.

BRAND: You are a proponent of what's known as the cap-and-trade system, and that basically enables polluters - polluting companies to buy carbon credits from other companies that aren't polluting as much. And doesn't that just let big polluters off the hook? And shouldn't we really be trying to just reduce their carbon footprint and overall the state's carbon footprint?

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: We want to incentivize companies to go and speed up the process and actually be ahead of schedule. We want them to come in below that cap and come in earlier so they have an incentive to go and say, you know, I can now trade with other companies that maybe are not quite up to speed yet. So it is actually meant to be an incentive to have companies act much faster and to get inspired to act faster.

BRAND: But what about just mandating them to not exceed certain levels?

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, you can do that but we want to have an incentive also at the same time. Rather we want to have the carrot and the stick approach.

BRAND: It seems, though, that it might be a way to make changes without really sacrificing anything. And personally, that's sort of your image too that you wanted to get out there. You want to say you can kind of, you know, have your cake and lose weight too. You can drive a Hummer and still be an environmentalist.

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, you can. You know, don't make a mistake that people are eating cake and losing weight at the same time. All you have to do is just eat a low calorie cake and you can eat it and also lose weight at the same time. So you should never limit yourself. For us, the bottom line is to make sure that they get to our goals, which is to reduce the greenhouse gases by 25 percent by the year 2020, to roll it back to the 1990 level.

BRAND: What if it doesn't work? What are you willing to do if you find that it's not reducing greenhouse gases quickly enough?

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: When you come from the athletic background like myself, you don't go and approach the 500-pound weight that you want to lift and you say, what is if I don't lift it?

BRAND: Okay. Let's talk a little bit about the Air Resources Board. This is the primary agency in California that will carry out California's global warming law. You've had some turmoil recently with the Air Resources Board. You fired the chair, Robert Sawyer. Another board member resigned in protest. And they complained your office was meddling, in effect, and slowing down their plans to implement the law.

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: We as a state have never done this before, so of course there will be stumbling blocks. And I remember that when I was over in England and Prime Minister Blair said to me, look, we have had a lot of bumps in the road and we made a lot of mistakes here to get where we are today. And look where they are today. They are nine percent below the 1990 level in greenhouse gas emissions.

They've been highly successful protecting the environment and at the same time have an economic boom. But he admitted that there was stumbling blocks along the way. Yes, they have failed sometimes. Yes, they have made mistakes. And we will do the same thing.

BRAND: Well, they basically say they need to be independent of your office. They say we need full independence or we can't protect ourselves against special interests influencing these decisions. Special interests being, you know, the oil industry, the electric company, etc.

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: Oh, well, first of all, let me just tell you that the board is independent, but they still need to know what the direction is. And our office never micromanaged anything, we never told them what to do. We just tell them make sure that the things that you pass and the kind of goals that you set are doable and are not going to jump ahead of technology.

Because it's one thing to say in two years from now we want to have all the diesel trucks change over to electric trucks. Well, what if the technology is not around? Key thing you should know is that the air board is independent.

BRAND: Okay. We've talked a lot about macro issues and what we can be doing as a state, as a nation, as a world, but what about personally? You've taken on this issue with fervor. I'm wondering what changes you've made personally in your daily life and what changes you think every Californian should make.

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I think what is important is conservation, number one. Because that's something that everyone can participate in. How long do you take a shower? How long do your kids take showers? I mean I don't let my kids take showers longer than five minutes because they used to take 20 minute showers. The same as case with kind, you know, engines that you have in your car.

Like for instance, I have Hummers. I took one Hummer and it is now a hydrogen Hummer. It has zero greenhouse gas emissions. The other one is a biofuel Hummer that was changed from a regular diesel to bio-diesel. Another car now, I just built a mechanism in there that will cut down the greenhouse gases by 80 percent. So those are the kind of things that I'm personally doing. The technology in the end is going to save the day. That's where the answers is. That's how we can reduce the greenhouse gases.

BRAND: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, thank you for joining us.

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: Absolutely. It's my pleasure. Thank you very much.

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