The USC Schwarzenegger Institute hosted Andrä Rupprechter, the Austrian Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, on Monday evening at the University Club for a roundtable discussion among 31 other guests on the subject of climate change and environmentally sustainable practices. Guests in attendance included the former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency and the executive director of R20. Former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and his predecessor, former Gov. Gray Davis were also in attendance. Thirteen members of the Austrian Trade Commission, Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and the Minister’s office also joined the discussion on global climate change and offered parallels between California and Austria’s climate change programs.
Topics of discussion included the implementation of a universal agreement for a legally binding contract that would enforce rules for accurately reporting, measuring and submitting emission reports at the annual Conference of Parties 21 in Paris in December.
Schwarzenegger began the discussion by comparing both Austria and California’s political, economic and environmental landscape by stating that both are exemplary to the rest of the world and demonstrate that both the subnational and national government are vehicles through which the issue can be approached.
The roundtable discussion honed in on major crises surrounding the issue of creating awareness for climate change. Members of the discussion repeatedly expressed that the general public often equates environmental protection programs with a plummeting economy.
Schwarzenegger explained that it is possible to implement environmental protection programs in conjunction with the creation of a thriving economic system. According to the former governor, partisan debate often leaves officials and their constituents falsely believing that the economy will suffer and thus, draws attention away from the real issue at stake: air pollution and health-related risks associated with poor air quality.
California, Schwarzenegger said, has thrived because it has built upon the work of former governors who did not derail members of the other political party, but continued to work together to combat issues associated with climate change.
“No matter what party you are in or represent, our responsibility is to protect the people,” Schwarzenegger said. “That is our ultimate responsibility and if you want to protect the people — climate change and pollution and this disastrous situation we are in [are] killing people and therefore we should do something about it.”
California Sen. Robert Hertzberg explained the dichotomy between the creation of environmentally friendly innovations and the funding. Members agreed that activists must look to decrease the risk in establishing new policies with technology and should allow partnerships with financiers to become more comfortable.
“The bottom line is this: you start a new company and what happens is you’re taking business from the existing company,” Hertzberg said. “It’s war. It is a financial war. It’s like the telephone industry beating out the telegraph industry, you just have to figure it out.”
Members agreed that activists must look to decrease the risk in establishing new policies with technology and should allow partnerships with financiers to become more comfortable.
“I do think the Kyoto protocols that were done back in 1992 when Clinton was president did not get adopted because there was not enough political pressure and [they got] lost in Congress,” Hertzberg said. “Today there is optimism that we can actually get something done.”
This post has been updated.