California initiatives, being green and NACW: Q&A with Linda Adams
April 14, 2010
Secretary of California EPA, Linda Adams, has become a veteran of NACW, and we are honored to have her joining us again this year. Secretary Adams will be delivering the conference’s welcome remarks on Thursday and also moderating the Friday plenary session “The Big Picture: Getting to 2050.” I had the opportunity to do a Q&A with her on California initiatives, being green and NACW.
With the ongoing uncertainty of a climate bill being passed by the US Senate this year, what role will subnational governments continue to play? Especially California?
We want action in Washington. In fact, it’s long overdue. We need national and international commitments to truly protect our planet and our future. But California isn’t waiting around for Congress to act. We’re pushing ahead because green jobs already are queuing up for renewable energy projects across the state. Any delay signal could stall the creation of these new jobs.
We know that change must start here with us, at the grassroots level. From here, it works its way up through our nations and around the world. This is how it’s been done for decades because states can move faster, have fewer political snares, and are much more nimble to respond to our unique, local challenges. And when it comes to climate changes, states are truly leading the way and we’re benefiting greatly.
You’ve been a very recognizable public figure at Navigating the American Carbon World for several years. Why do you think it’s important you attend?
I remember negotiating the bill that led to the creation of the California Climate Action Registry. It was the nation’s first voluntary carbon emissions registry, and has been a tremendously valuable foundation for the state’s action to respond to climate change.
As we transition from dirty energy to clean energy, now more than ever, this important conference provides valuable and essential information on trendsetting policies that help businesses trim carbon emissions, improve energy efficiency and cut costs. California is implementing the most comprehensive climate policies in the nation, and the information that this conference provides is helping organizations, investors, sustainability coordinators and companies navigate their way through this new carbon world.
I’m proud to be a part of this event. It is one of the most important climate policy conferences in California and features some of the world’s most notable climate leaders.
In your personal life, what is your favorite activity that supports sustainable living?
I do a number of things that help reduce my environmental footprint. From voluntarily buying green power from my utility, to purchasing offsets for all of my travel, I think it’s important to always be looking for ways to do more by using less. I recently re-landscaped my home with drought resistant plants to help save water. My front yard is now the envy of the neighborhood. I drive a hybrid vehicle to reduce to reduce greenhouse gases and am fortunate to live in a walkable community where I can walk to the park, restaurants and grocery store on the weekends.
I also think as leaders we have the opportunity to lead by example. Our employees, friends and family are watching our behaviors. I participate, alongside my colleagues at the California Environmental Protection Agency in “Million Mile May,” an initiative to encourage people to cycle to work.
The greatest collaborations in addressing climate change include business, NGOs, academia and government agencies working together. These groups can have vastly different interests and opinions, so what are the keys each should keep in mind to ensure successful collaboration and results?
I actually think that, for the most part, business, NGO, academia and government have a lot in common. I believe that we share a deep commitment to protect our natural resources for generations to come, and do so in a way that strengthens our economy. It’s not just a soundbite that the environment and economy can go hand-in-hand. They are intertwined.
And where we do have differences, by working together and considering our varying perspectives, we end up with better and stronger policies. Collaboration is about good communication, it involves listening, understanding and respect. And it involves concessions and compromise, which ultimately lead us to our shared goal of environmental protection.
This is Governor Schwarzenegger’s last year in office. What will be his legacy?
This Governor has accomplished some tremendous things for our environment. Signing the nation’s first cap on greenhouse gas emissions and setting California on a course to cleaner energy is one of his greatest successes.
What do you think of the petition to suspend AB 32?
Suspending AB 32 would spell disaster for California’s economic and environmental future. Delaying efforts to solve our dependence on oil, which whipsawed between $40 and $140 a barrel over the past two years, will only delay our economic recovery. Dozens of studies have been done and show more green jobs, lower fuels bills and a continuing strong economy for California.
The Air Board just released an updated economic analysis that very thoroughly and credibly analyzed different scenarios for the future, and showed the serious costs of inaction. We simply cannot afford to delay implementing AB 32.
Internationally and nationally, California is viewed as a leader in climate change initiatives. At COP15 in Copenhagen, I had a discussion with a government representative from Quebec who recited sections of AB 32. How did California assume such a visible role and why is it important the state retain it?
California has long been a laboratory for innovation. And through his tremendous leadership, Arnold Schwarzenegger has placed California on a global stage when it comes to combating climate change. Wherever I travel, the people always tell me that they are his biggest fans. The Governor has the incredible ability to bring in leaders from around the world to work together, developing commonsense initiatives that achieve critical goals. California is a part of a growing global network.
If you could predict the future, what would you say will be the most impactful climate change innovations to come out of California this year?
California has many policy initiatives to adopt this year as part of the AB 32 Scoping Plan. The most important is the design and adoption of a cap-and-trade program. One that will integrate into the Western Climate Initiative’s regional carbon trading program. The design features of this program will be heavily watched by leaders in Washington as they design a national program in Congress.
What is a small lifestyle change that you often recommend for people to lower their carbon footprints?
It’s the simple things that really add up. From keeping reusable grocery bags in your trunk, to turning off lights when you leave a room, these small things can make a difference. I walk to all of my downtown meetings and carpool with colleagues to meetings outside of the city. My office is lit by natural light and many others in the office do the same. And these are changes that cause no inconvenience whatsoever.