In one of his final acts in office, the four-term governor has cast himself as President Trump’s foil on global warming as host of this week’s Global Climate Action Summit, a splashy, star-studded event in San Francisco.
The massive three-day bash hosted by Mr. Brown will feature top Democrats, liberal megadonors, Obama administration figures, international leaders, green energy, Silicon Valley, Hollywood celebrities, and Al Gore.
“We’re running out of time,” said Mr. Brown, who leaves office in January. “There’s been some backsliding since Paris, and our Summit … aims to increase the commitments that have already been made in Paris, to make them even greater, and thereby build the momentum going into the [UN] conference of the parties at Poland.”
Expect plenty of Trump-bashing at the Moscone Center, where 4,500 attendees are expected to gather Wednesday through Friday, over the White House’s June 2017 decision to pull out of the accord.
The Trump exit delivered the biggest blow to the UN-sponsored pact, prompting Mr. Brown and other Democratic governors to vow to fill the void by abiding by the agreement, but more setbacks have followed.
At a meeting this week of climate delegates in Bangkok, there were warnings that the Paris accord could unravel after talks hit a stalemate over the $100 billion annual transfer from Western-style economies to developing nations, funding aimed at helping them invest in low-carbon power sources.
“Developed countries are going back on their word and refusing to agree to clear rules governing climate finance,” Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change for ActionAid, told AFP. “If they remain stuck in their positions and fail to loosen their purses, this treaty may collapse.”
In Brazil, presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, known as the “Brazilian Trump,” has indicated he may leave the climate agreement if he wins in October. In Canada, Ontario premier Doug Ford announced in July that he would revoke the province’s cap-and-trade program, a key component of the national climate plan.
Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull scrapped plans last month to embed Paris climate targets in national legislation amid a revolt within his party. Meanwhile, about 1,600 coal-fired plants are scheduled to be built in 62 nations, according to data compiled last year by the German environmental group Urgewald.
“President Donald Trump may be presiding over the disintegration of the UN Paris climate pact,” said Climate Depot’s Marc Morano, adding that the U.S. decision “set a global example and it may have led to the agreement potentially teetering on the brink of its own survival.”
Thomas Pyle, president of the free-market American Energy Alliance, argued that the Paris agreement has been on shaky footing ever since Mr. Trump took action.
“The Paris Agreement was bound to begin to unravel when President Trump took bold steps to remove the United States, since the whole point was to penalize the U.S. and get it to redistribute billions of dollars to other nations,” said Mr. Pyle, a member of the Trump transition team.
The agreement, aimed at limiting the increase in global temperatures, has also enjoyed successes as nations implement policies to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions, but critics argued that the California summit shows support for the accord has yet to cross ideological lines.
“You look at the speakers—this merely highlights the fact that support for the Paris climate agreement is a leftist political cause and little more,” said James Taylor, senior fellow at the free-market Heartland Institute, which plans to livestream its own counter-summit from the Independent Institute in Oakland.
“You have Van Jones, Al Gore, Tom Steyer, Jerry Brown, Nancy Pelosi—how are they going to make the case that there’s a consensus opinion to support Paris and restrictions on carbon dioxide when the only people they can pull together are leftist policy makers, leftist entertainers and leftist activists?” he asked.
The summit also faces opposition on the left. Crowds of activists are expected to expose the Democratic Party’s “green divide” by protesting Mr. Brown’s failure to do more to fight climate change with, for example, a ban on hydraulic fracturing.
The criticism came even though Mr. Brown signed as expected ambitious legislation Monday that set a goal of 100 percent renewable energy for the state’s power generation by 2045.
Among the summit’s highlights is the involvement of China. Mr. Brown and Chinese officials are expected to announce the establishment of Clean Tech Funds and sign a joint statement on “friendship, the environment and climate change.”
“During this important period, the Summit will help mobilize the national, sub-national, business, and society as a whole to demonstrate their actions and determinations, which will not only advance the global climate governance process, but also push forward the global green and low-carbon transformations,” said Xie Zhenhua, China special representative for climate change affairs, in a statement.
Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, described the prominent Chinese presence as “interesting,” given that China was held to a lower standard under the Paris agreement, even though China’s emissions are higher than those of the U.S. and European Union combined.
“China’s pledge under the Paris Climate Treaty is that their emissions will peak by 2030,” said Mr. Ebell, a member of the Trump transition team. “This pledge is no more ambitious than their own economic predictions of what will happen under a business-as-usual scenario. It is hard to see how business as usual makes China a climate leader.”
Despite the Trump administration’s determination to exit the accord, the United States leads the world in reducing greenhouse gases. While global emissions have increased 40 percent since 2000, U.S. emissions fell by 14 percent, said Mr. Taylor.
“Nations like to sign onto these platitudes and clap each other on the back and say that they’re saving the planet, but in reality these agreements mean nothing,” Mr. Taylor said. “What really matters is free markets and the development of technology, and that’s what’s going on in the United States.”
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