Gov. Jerry Brown was named Tuesday as a special envoy to states at the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, further elevating his international profile as a leader on the issue as President Donald Trump backs away from a key international agreement. The announcement of Brown’s role at the November conference in Bonn, Germany, by Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama comes on the heels of the governor’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks to discuss climate change. “I will lean on Gov. Brown to continue to bring the great leadership he has demonstrated time and time again, and to mobilize a strong contingent of like-minded leaders from around the world, to show the world that we mean business,” Bainimarama said during a news conference at the historic governor’s mansion in Sacramento.
The four-term governor has made reducing greenhouse gas emissions and boosting green technology a key tenet of his administration. He’s launched non-binding climate change pacts, including the newly formed U.S. Climate Alliance of states committed to upholding the carbon reductions goals in the Paris climate agreement, from which Trump plans to withdraw. Bainimarama on Tuesday joined Fiji in the Under2 Coalition, a pact among cities, states and countries that Brown helped launch in 2015 aimed at keeping the rise of global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius.
Bainimarama hailed U.S. states’ commitment to upholding the Paris agreements. He noted Trump’s choice to withdraw could bring fireworks to the U.N. conference, known as “COP 23.” “I think the withdrawal of the White House is going to make COP 23 very exciting,” he said. Brown won’t be the only governor potentially playing an outsize role at the conference. Fellow West Coast Govs. Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington, who also traveled to Sacramento on Tuesday, both plan to attend with other governors in the state’s Climate Alliance.
“We’re going to play a very important role,” Jerry Brown said. The state agreement is a non-binding commitment to uphold the Paris goals, which include reducing the country’s emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels. Many of the 13 states involved already have their own targets in place, and the goal of the coalition is to collaborate and share ideas on using green technology and other means to meet the goal. “When the president decided to run up the white flag of surrender to the challenge of climate change, we jumped right into the barricades,” Inslee said.