Schwarzenegger’s Speech in Copenhagen

Here is a transcript of Governor Schwarzenegger’s speech to the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. It’s provided by his media relations staff, as insertion of the “laugh track” and applause notations may suggest.

Thank you so much for this great introduction, Governor Campbell, or Premier Campbell. It’s exactly the way I wrote it. That’s right. (Laughter) Just joking. He has been a terrific partner and a great, great friend and of course we will see each other up there at the Olympics, which is going to be probably the best-organized Olympics, knowing you. So thank you very much also for your invitation.

I also want to thank Governor Jose Serra for the wonderful speech and the very profound things that he said. And you have been also an extraordinary leader, so thank you very much. Let’s give him also again another big hand for the great work. (Applause)

And then Ivo de Bóer from the U.N., we want to thank him for organizing this and being a great leader and believing in the subnational governments.

And also we have from California here some people like Linda Adams, who is in charge of the EPA. Where’s Linda Adams? Stand up, Linda. Let’s give her a big hand. (Applause) Then Senator Fran Pavley, who is a great, great leader. Where is she? Can you get up? OK, right there. (Applause) Extraordinary leader in California. Without her we wouldn’t have been able to go as far as we did with the reduction of greenhouse gases and so on. And then we have Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner. Where is she? She is also here. Let’s give her also a big hand.

I love giving this speech here just simply because I’m not the only one that has an accent. It’s a good place to come. (Laughter)

But anyway, it is wonderful to be back here again. So before I say anything and do anything, let me just thank the U.N. and the people who have worked very hard on this to make this whole meeting happen. Let’s give them a big hand for their great, great organization. (Applause)

I especially want to thank Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for his early attention to the threat of global climate change and I want to congratulate him on his great, great leadership on the issue that has brought us all together.

I am delighted and honored to be with you in Copenhagen. This is not the first time I’ve been here; I’ve been here many, many times before, if it is for my movie promotions or for coming here for bodybuilding and weightlifting seminars, or just on vacation and so on. But I never thought then that one day I will get here as the governor of the great state and talk about climate change, so this is really terrific. So it’s great.

And this city, of course, distinguishes itself by being so clean you can actually swim in its harbor, even though I wouldn’t recommend it right now because it’s a little cold, of course. But how happy we would be if all the world’s harbors would be as clean.

As everyone knows, also in the harbor there is the “Little Mermaid,” the statue based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. When I was a boy in Austria, the Andersen fairy tale that I always liked best was “The Ugly Duckling.” And looking back, I think the reason that I liked it was because it was a tale of transformation and that spoke to me inside. I have always believed in the tremendous power of personal transformation.

The desire, the hope, the desperate need for planetary transformation is what brought us together here. And the question is: is this also a fairy tale? Is it a dream? Is it a false hope? And if it is not, how do we make it real? Is that something that we ought to discuss? And this is something that I do want to discuss here while I’m here with you. Look around this carbon-conscious city and you should feel hope. Copenhagen is often voted as one of the most livable cities in the world.

So the question really is, how do we make the world itself livable and sustainable? Certainly, it would be terrific if the world’s governments reached an agreement and put hard caps on greenhouse gases while generously helping poor nations, who are least responsible for and least able to respond to climate change. Attempting to reach such an agreement is good and is actually very, very important.

But why do we put so many hopes and eggs into the big international agreement basket when, according to the UN itself, up to 80 percent of greenhouse gas mitigation will be done at the subnational level?

In recent weeks, the prospects for this gathering here have gone up and down, up and own, like a roller-coaster ride. And everyone was in fear, of like what will the U.S. do? What will China do, or not do? Is it going to be 20 percent reductions or a 17 percent reductions? Is the base 1990 or 2005? Should it be 350 parts per million or 450 parts per million?

But what if I said that international agreements, as critical as they are, will never do enough? What if we took that as a given? Wouldn’t that expand the possibilities and approaches for progress we would consider?

I mean, my late mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the remarkable woman who started Special Olympics, an organization that dedicates itself to people with intellectual disabilities, gave me an insight on this. She was the sister of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Teddy Kennedy and she knew everyone in American power and politics.

But she once told me that while the federal government was important for policies related to Special Olympics — such as health care, equal rights, job creation, dental care and so on — but she never would have relied on the federal government to build Special Olympics. She said you need all kinds of different elements and entities like local government, state government, volunteers, corporate sponsors, coaches, celebrities and, of course, the families.

She said that no one from government is going to be there at the sports events and hug those kids when they come through the finish line, or organize the competition so there is a finish line in the first place. No one from government trains those kids so they don’t hurt themselves or so they know how to perform those sports. She said, no, that is up to many of us, many different entities. And she built a movement, a worldwide movement that has spread to 180-plus countries.

So history tells us that movements began with the people, not with government and then, when they became powerful enough, government responds. In the U.S. the labor movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam anti-war movement — they did not begin in the corridors of power in Washington.

So there’s a lesson in this for our cause. While national governments have been fighting over emission targets, subnational governments have been adopting their own targets and laws and policies. While national governments have been trying for years to define what Kyoto means, businesses are pursuing cutting-edge technologies to solve energy and environmental problems. While national governments debate how carbon caps will affect their economies compared to others, many of their citizens are seeking greener lifestyles on their own.

Government clearly has a major role, there are no two ways about that. But I also believe in the power of the iconoclast and the entrepreneur and the individualist. I believe in the power of the scientists, the capitalists and the activists. I believe in the power of the cities and the states and the provinces to be laboratories for new ideas, which the national governments then can go and study and adopt.

I mean, too often, I think, we fail to see the potential and the progress that is being made on all those different levels. By putting all of our eggs in one basket, we fail to see the eggs in the other baskets.

Let me give you a few quick examples.

Dr. Rajendra Pachuari, who came to our environmental summit in California just recently, he has his own target. He is replacing kerosene and paraffin lanterns with solar light for 400 million rural people in India — 400 million people in India. Think about that. So if the nations of the world do not sign a carbon agreement, does that mean the doctor’s transformative work in India doesn’t count?

In the U.S., in the small town of Roscoe, Texas, a German company has completed the world’s largest wind farm. If we don’t reach a major carbon agreement, does that mean the Texas wind farm doesn’t really count?

With the assistance of Greenpeace, four of the world’s largest meat producers agreed not to buy cattle from newly deforested areas of the Amazon. That doesn’t count?

The head of an energy company in China recently said of renewable and efficient energy, “We think that this is a new business for us, not a burden.” And China now is becoming the leader in developing and manufacturing renewable energy equipment. That doesn’t count?

Yes, sure, they all count. And they reveal that something is happening, something that is happening below the national level.

California, for instance, is working with cities and with states and provinces and regions and nations, including Mexican states, Canadian and Chinese provinces and European nations. We’re even working with the U.N. to assist developing countries, especially in Africa. We are trying to foment change and collaboration and movement. We’re doing everything we can to change the balance of power on the environment.

And of course when I talk about California, I realize that while we may lead America and many other countries environmentally, Denmark here is already one-third more energy efficient. Isn’t that fantastic? And Europe is a great leader in this whole thing.

But the reason for discussing my adopted home state of California is because, first of all, I’m the governor of the great state of California and I have a little right to brag about our state, right? And also, California is the seventh largest economy in the world and also America’s trendsetter, so what we do has consequences. Now, maybe when you look at the globe it is just a little dot, or maybe you cannot even find California. But the power of influence we have is equivalent to a continent. And we in California do not believe and we do not behave, as if progress has to wait for Washington or Beijing or Kyoto.

In California, we are proceeding on renewable energy requirements and a cap and trade system for greenhouse gases. We are moving forward. As a matter of fact, we are making great progress. If hydro is included, we will get 45 percent of our energy from renewables in ten years from now and we are already at 27 percent.

We are proceeding on the world’s first low carbon fuel standards and limiting greenhouse gas emissions from cars which, by the way, the Obama Administration has now just adopted. We are proceeding in a major way on green tech, no matter what happens in Washington or in Copenhagen. Billions of dollars, nearly 60 percent of all venture capital in America, flows to California and this is creating the critical mass of money and intellect to develop new green technologies.

Leaders from around the world are coming to California to see what we’re doing. I took the French Foreign Trade Minister to a business in San Francisco called Solazyme, which was just recently named the most innovative bio-energy company. They have come up with a way to convert algae into a fuel that is 90 percent cleaner than petroleum-based fuels. The U.S. Navy has just signed an agreement with them and is going to use that fuel to power some of its ships.

So from what I see in the research labs and venture capital start-ups around the globe, I believe that the world’s businesses will move to solar and to wind and alternatives much faster than the people expect.

Kenya, for instance. Kenya already gets nearly three-quarters of its power from hydroelectric and from geothermal — three-quarters. And next month it will begin work on a $760 million wind farm that by 2012 will increase Kenya’s power supply by about 30 percent.

Now, the uplifting thing is that the developing nations will be able to leapfrog into the green economy and skip the fossil-fueled industrial revolution. Isn’t that wonderful?

I believe that we have economics on our side. Since the supply of wind and sun and algae is unlimited, their prices will not jump. That cannot be said of oil, the supply of which is limited and declining. That cannot be said of coal, whose costs of extraction and labor and transportation are bound to rise.

So I believe technological and economic forces will overtake the political and the regulatory efforts of national governments. We are beginning one of history’s great transitions – the transition to a new economic foundation for the 21st century and beyond.

Shouldn’t we organize to encourage this transition even as we continue to work toward international compacts? Of course we should. Now, if this conference does not get a strong agreement, some will say that Copenhagen has failed, that we talk grandly but we are fooling ourselves, much like the fairy tale, “The Emperor Has No Clothes.”

And others will say that any agreement that is being reached isn’t enough because the world is going to melt and we’re going to die anyway.

Others will say, “Look at those crazy people trying to wreck the global economy.”

No, ladies and gentlemen, this conference is automatically and already a success.

Kyoto brought the world’s focus to what must be done. It brought the focus to that whole subject. We didn’t know then what we know now. We didn’t have as much experience with the science that we would research or the hurdles we would face. But Kyoto made us think differently about the world.

And perhaps the real success of Copenhagen is to give us the opportunity to think differently again. Perhaps the success comes in realizing that something different needs to be done and in fact is already being done. It’s being done at the sub-national level.

And I would ask the U.N. to convene a climate summit like Copenhagen but for cities, for states, for provinces and for regions. And I will be more than happy to host such a summit in California or anywhere else the U.N. wants to hold it but I recommend strongly in California. (Applause) People like coming to California. They love our state.

So ladies and gentlemen, the world’s governments alone cannot make progress, the kind of progress that is needed on global climate change. They alone cannot do it. They need everyone coming together, everyone working together. They need the cities, they need the states, they need the provinces and the regions. They need the corporations, the activists, the scientists and the universities. They need the individuals whose vision and determination create movements. They need everybody out there.

So ladies and gentlemen, let us regain our momentum, let us regain our purpose, let us regain our hope by liberating the transformative power beneath the national level.
That can be the great contribution of Copenhagen — that could be the great contribution of Copenhagen.

So thank you for inviting me. Thank you for your kind attention and warm hospitality. And thank you for the great passion and for the hard work that you all do. And it is very important that we continue with this work.

So thank you very much and I’ll be back. Thank you.

Schwarzenegger’s Speech in Copenhagen 15 December,2009Craig Miller

3 thoughts on “Schwarzenegger’s Speech in Copenhagen”

  1. I couldn’t make it past the shout outs before I threw in my mouth a little – what BS

    If you have all these great leaders in CA why is the place the fianacial ghetto of the US? Like I said I couldn’t get very far but did they give Chavez a shout out and standing ovation for originallity in economics too

  2. No doubt about it, that was pure BS. California is the poster child for how to run a state into bankruptcy. There are no great leaders in California!! Left wing liberals, yes. The state will probably wake up after we set a first and go bankrupt; we are already billions of dollars in the red!!

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Craig Miller

Craig is a former KQED Science editor, specializing in weather, climate, water & energy issues, with a little seismology thrown in just to shake things up. Prior to that, he launched and led the station's award-winning multimedia project, Climate Watch. Craig is also an accomplished writer/producer of television documentaries, with a focus on natural resource issues.

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