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.
After a week of nearly unabashed adulation from European hosts in four countries, Gov. Jerry Brown got a reminder Saturday of the more rough-and tumble handling he receives at home.
Brown had barely begun a speech in his first formal appearance in Bonn at the U.N. climate-change summit when a small cluster of Californians began a demonstration, holding banners and shouting, “Leave it in the ground!”—a reference to oil and gas extraction activities that pollute low-income neighborhoods.
The group, which did not identify itself, called Brown a hypocrite for bragging about the strictness of California’s environmental regulations while fostering the extraction of highly polluting crude oil, and for his support of fracking.
A report from the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity, released on the eve of the U.N. conference, concluded that about 75% of the oil coming out of California is as climate-damaging as Canadian tar sands crude.
Brown attempted to continue his speech, even adopting the demonstrators’ language at one point and attempting to engage the handful of hecklers in a dialogue.
“I agree with you: ‘In the ground,’ ” Brown said. “Let’s put you in the ground so we can get on with the show here.”
The group was eventually escorted out of the room.
Asked later about the episode, Brown, who has encountered other hecklers in his long political career, replied, “No comment.”
Brown’s speech (beginning at 1:05:59) was about the coalition of cities, states, provinces and countries that have signed on to an agreement to curb carbon emissions.
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:
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.
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.