Photo illustration by John Osborn D'Agostino

Gov. Brown goes to Europe

Follow this blog for updates from CALmatters reporter Julie Cart as Gov. Jerry Brown travels Europe to meet with leaders about climate change.

Gov. Brown in Europe

Nov. 8, 2017 3:30 pm

Brown takes some heat on climate change

Reporting from Belgium

After five days of diplomatic-style meetings with European leaders and their ever-present translators, Gov. Jerry Brown found a venue where people speak a common language: politics.

In a lively and frank discussion with members of the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, Brown fielded questions from elected officials who mostly praised California’s accomplishments in combating climate change and marveled at the political muscle it required. But the governor also took some heat.

Brown described the effort it took for the Legislature to reauthorize a 10-year extension of California’s cap-and-trade carbon-reduction program in July with a two-thirds vote. He said that, despite appearances, there is a great deal of complacency in the state on the issue of climate change. Cap and trade is a highly partisan subject, the governor said, yet the renewal bill passed because eight Republicans supported it.

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“And one of them was voted out as a leader,” Brown said, referring to Yucca Valley Assemblyman Chad Mayes. “So I guess there’s a price to pay.”

Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the European Parliament in Brussels. Photo by Julie Cart for CALmatters

Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the European Parliament in Brussels. Photo by Julie Cart for CALmatters

There were a handful of impassioned challenges to Brown’s dire warnings about the danger of inaction on climate change. One member denounced the “cult of climate change” and refuted the science.

Another member, Steven Woolfe, representing the United Kingdom, mocked Brown’s “rapturous welcome” from the Parliament, then launched into a lacerating attack on California’s climate policies, which he suggested were disproportionately harming lower-income people by raising the cost of living.

Brown answered sharply, saying to the skeptics in the room, “You are dead wrong. The crocodile tears you shed for the poor are not convincing, not convincing at all.”

Woolfe shot back, “That’s disgraceful. Take that back.” (Brown didn’t.)

Woolfe, who live-tweeted during the debate, termed the exchange a “verbal dispute” and maintained that Brown’s policies had reduced 40 percent of California’s population to living in poverty. The parliamentarian is a member of Britain’s Independent Party, led by Nigel Farage, whose “Euroskepticism” drove the vote for the country to leave the European Union.

The question-and-answer session morphed into a couple of hours in which members picked Brown’s political brain, seeking practical solutions to what some Europeans consider to be intractable problems. In particular, policymakers are wrestling with the question of how to reduce automobile emissions and encourage adoption of electric vehicles.

Claude Turmes, a member from Luxembourg, brought up to the inability of the Parliament to develop a meaningful framework of fines for damaging emissions but have been experiencing pushback from automobile manufacturers. Turmes was referring to the large fine levied on German car maker Volkswagen, for installing devices to defeat emission tests.  California received more than $1 billion in a settlement.

“We have a car industry problem; can you give us some advice,” Turmes said. “What is the trick to work with the car lobby? You must have a trick.”

Brown replied: “It’s easy; we fine German car makers. They don’t vote.”

Environment Reporter
Gov. Brown in Europe

Nov. 16, 2017 12:22 pm

Leaving Europe, Brown says he’s talked enough, wants to ‘get something done’

California governor Jerry Brown speaking in the tent of the climate initiative "America's Pledge" during the World Climate Conference this week in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Henning Kaiser via AP Images.
California governor Jerry Brown speaking in the tent of the climate initiative “America’s Pledge” during the World Climate Conference this week in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Henning Kaiser via AP Images.
Reporting from Germany

The camera and lights switched on and Ole Torp, the Charlie Rose of Norway, leaned in, silver hair flashing, and posed his first question to Gov. Jerry Brown.

“Is the world going to hell?”

“Yes,” Brown answered swiftly.

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The interview, taped last week in Oslo, was declared a fabulous success, one the television audience would quite enjoy.

How to explain the climate-change world’s curious embrace of a man with so apocalyptic a message? On a nearly two-week swing through Europe, starting at the Vatican and ending at the United Nations climate change conference in Bonn, Brown offered a bleak appraisal of the global future:  We are on a trajectory toward hell. It’s a headlong rush to a very unpleasant outcome. Mankind is on the chopping block.

Yet Brown dazzled. His message—the planet is burning up, and our oil-driven way of life must change—brought Vatican scientists to their feet. European parliamentarians in Brussels swooned, calling him a warrior. In Oslo, an international group of scientists paid Brown their highest compliment: inviting him to their inner sanctum for a day-long “dialogue,” a dreary recitation of the looming crash of spaceship Earth.  Students in Stuttgart, inheritors of the mess Brown describes, mobbed the 79-year-old for selfies.

It wasn’t all adulation, all the time. A rebuke from a couple of parliamentarians in Brussels led to a sharp exchange over the effect of climate-change policies on the poor. And hecklers tried to shout down the governor during a speech in Bonn as they protested his oil policies.

But the criticism did little to deter Brown, who was on message throughout the trip: Climate change is a serious threat, California is doing its part—and, especially, come to San Francisco next year for a climate conference that gets things accomplished.

In the absence of a climate policy from the U.S. government, or a recognition that human activity has played a role in warming the world, Brown has become a de facto climate leader—Al Gore 2.0, as an Afghan journalist here observed offhandedly. During his trip, Brown was repeatedly called on to voice an opinion on President Trump’s assertion that climate change is a hoax. He told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in a taped interview Tuesday that “Trump better get on board or get out of the way.” On most other occasions, Brown largely held his fire, perhaps not wanting to give the president’s arguments any oxygen.

Mostly he focused on burnishing California’s “green” reputation—and his own, as he looks ahead to life after Sacramento, a subject he won’t go near. Read more:

Environment Reporter
Gov. Brown in Europe

Nov. 14, 2017 3:45 pm

It’s Bonn-voyage for Brown, who heads home to California

Gov. Jerry Brown poses for photo on his last day in Bonn. Photo by Julie Cart for CALmatters
Reporting from Germany

Like two low-emission diesel ships passing in the hallways of sustainably constructed meeting halls, the leaders of the U.S. delegation are arriving at the U.N. climate conference in Bonn just as the California delegation is leaving.

Gov. Jerry Brown made his last speech and stood still, reluctantly, for a few final photos today before departing for home in the afternoon.

About the same time, the U.S. State Department announced that Ambassador Thomas A. Shannon—the Under Secretary for Political Affairs who was to head the U.S delegation—had a family emergency and would not attend.

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He is being replaced by Judith Garber, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Although the conference has been under way for a week and a half, the high-level negotiations are just beginning.

It is unlikely that Garber and Brown would have met, even if they had been here at the same time. The first wave of U.S. officials to arrive hosted a breakfast last week. Asked if he planned to attend, Brown said he had another commitment.

The two delegations have at least one thing in common: Both Brown and U.S. officials have had events disrupted by protesters.

Environment Reporter
Gov. Brown in Europe

Nov. 14, 2017 10:39 am

Got questions? We have answers!

What do you want to know about Gov. Jerry Brown’s European climate crusade? About the U.N. conference on climate change? About California’s moves to fight the warming of the world?

CALmatters environment reporter Julie Cart, who’s been with Brown abroad, has answers for you on Twitter today at noon PST.  Tweet your queries with the hashtag #CMenviro. For 30 minutes, she’ll be there to respond.

You can read here what Julie wrote on the eve of Brown’s trip.

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