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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.

Brown Goes to Europe

Nov. 9, 2017 12:07 pm

Gov. Brown extols the Byzantine in Brussels

Environment Reporter
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters in Brussels. Photo by Julie Cart for CALmatters

Reporters covering Jerry Brown should get college credit.

The governor regularly quotes Virgil, lapses into Latin, expounds on obscure historical figures and quotes from books he’s read. It’s difficult to keep up.

Yes, Brown is an anomaly among politicians. That’s part of his appeal as he rambles through Europe discussing climate change.

At every stop someone remarks to him: “You are so straightforward,” or, “You have been very clear, thank you,” or, after an especially forceful Brown table-thumping about our frying planet, “Thank you,” gulp, “for your honesty.”

From a nation that perfected the slick political operative, Brown comes across as the anti-politician. He doesn’t smile. You know he’s thinking when his eyebrows collide and he begins to frown. He hasn’t been looking questioners in the eye much here, instead busying himself jotting notes. He wears nice suits, slightly rumpled. His pocket square often droops and slips out of sight by the end of the day.

From the Vatican to the European Parliament to countless meetings with political and cultural leaders, the governor has been greeted as an oracle. Thursday’s event, a forum on climate issues, was in Brussels, hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an American think tank.

Brown pleaded for action in the fight against a warming world, as he has just about every day on this trip. Answering wide-ranging and thoughtful questions, he pulled in references from economic theory, current international events and the latest thinking on the nuclear threat.

At a press conference with European correspondents afterward, Brown snatched a reporter’s notebook and sketched out Cartesian coordinates—an X-Y axis graph—to make a point. He held it up to show those in the back. Something about closing the gap between the Power Curve and the Wisdom Curve. He went on, the reporters mostly nodding vacantly.

One correspondent asked: You’ve said you don’t have the patience for bureaucracy, and here we are at the seat of the European Parliament, the most complex bureaucracy the world has ever known. Is the world governance structure adequate to dealing with the complexities of climate change?

That unleashed an exposition on the Byzantine Empire.

“Bureaucracy is better than war,” Brown said, leaning forward, jabbing a forefinger into the conference table. “Don’t get bogged don’t on these abstruse processes. That’s better than exchanging bullets.

“Climate change is complex,” he went on. “Dealing with it through this Byzantine system you Europeans have created—I don’t have an answer other than the Byzantine Empire lasted longer than almost any other empire, and had a stable currency longer.

“So don’t put down Byzantine structures. They have a good historical track record.”

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Brown Goes to Europe

Nov. 16, 2017 12:22 pm

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

Environment Reporter
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.

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.

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:

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Brown Goes to Europe

Nov. 14, 2017 3:45 pm

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

Environment Reporter
Gov. Jerry Brown poses for photo on his last day in Bonn. Photo by Julie Cart for CALmatters

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.

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.

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Brown Goes to 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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