California, An Environmental Leader, Eyes A Key Role In Climate Talks World leaders are set to meet in Paris, trying to agree on how to combat climate change. Also attending will be California Gov. Jerry Brown, who is spearheading his own international climate movement.
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California, An Environmental Leader, Eyes A Key Role In Climate Talks

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California, An Environmental Leader, Eyes A Key Role In Climate Talks

California, An Environmental Leader, Eyes A Key Role In Climate Talks

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/456650555/457203872" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

World leaders will be meeting in Paris early next week, hoping to draft an agreement to combat climate change. California Governor Jerry Brown will also be there pushing for local solutions to global warming, as Lauren Sommer of member station KQED reports.

LAUREN SOMMER, BYLINE: Governor Jerry Brown has been on an international diplomatic tour the last few months.

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JERRY BROWN: Thank you.

SOMMER: All about climate change.

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BROWN: The world faces an existential threat.

SOMMER: That was Brown addressing Canadian leaders in July. Then he went to the Vatican.

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BROWN: Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

SOMMER: And he met with Chinese leaders in September. The reason for all these meetings...

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BROWN: Troglodytes.

SOMMER: Troglodytes, that's what he calls those who doubt climate change.

BROWN: Republican Congress and all of the Republican candidates are in a very deep state of denial, despite the vast, vast overwhelming scientific consensus.

SOMMER: Brown says the political stalemate in Washington, D.C. has left a huge void on climate change.

BROWN: Somebody has to wake up the country to the real danger.

SOMMER: And that somebody is California, he says. Brown has been brokering his own international climate agreement - not with other countries but with regional governments, like states and provinces in Brazil, Germany and Mexico. They've agreed to cut their emissions 80 percent or more by mid-century.

BROWN: That's more than the nation states.

SOMMER: It's not a binding promise to cut emissions, but Brown says with more than 50 signatories, they represent what would be the largest economy in the world, a message he's taking to the Paris climate talks.

BROWN: We have to light the fire, if I could use that metaphor, putting as much pressure and support behind this global commitment.

SOMMER: Going in alone is something California is used to. A decade ago, the state took on a landmark climate change goal to cut emissions 30 percent by 2020. It's the most ambitious policy in the country, and it's remaking California's economy.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: One, two, three.

(APPLAUSE)

SOMMER: Record amounts of renewable energy are coming online, like this 16-acre solar farm opening outside Sacramento. Manufacturers and electric utilities have had to cut their emissions too. And then there are California's cars. Automakers are required to offer hundreds of thousands of clean cars for sale on the California market, like the all-electric Nissan LEAF that Jeff Stone is parking at his Southern California office.

JEFF STONE: And I got to tell you, I love the car.

SOMMER: Stone is what you'd call an early adopter. This is his third electric car.

STONE: I had a Tesla that I loved, and then I had a Coda.

SOMMER: Stone is also a Republican state senator and a climate change doubter. He's not a fan of California's go-it-alone approach.

STONE: We represent about 1 percent or less of any contribution to global warming that happens. And we can't do it alone.

SOMMER: That may be true, says Dan Kammen, a professor of energy at UC Berkeley. But he thinks California's real power is as a symbol.

DANIEL KAMMEN: California's the seventh biggest economy in the world. It makes a big difference, and it's a big thought leader.

SOMMER: Kammen points out today's federal rules for energy efficiency and car pollution are based on California's.

KAMMEN: And so getting a lead actor, like California, really helps the federal government see what the options are, see what the hurdles are likely to be.

SOMMER: Which is why Kammen says he talks about California nonstop at international climate meetings. He'll be joining Governor Brown this time in Paris as California looks to make its mark on the world stage. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Sommer in San Francisco.

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