Joining moderator Ann Thompson from NBC in an exclusive lunch discussion Friday with former Prime Minister of Great Britain Tony Blair and the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California gave props to Blair for inspiring Schwarzenegger and California legislators to pass Assembly Bill 32 (AB32) in 2006. AB32 was the first major legislation in the United States to measure and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the law is being modeled by other states and the US government now.
It’s the perfect example, Governor Schwarzenegger says, of bottom-up action by sub-national governments that spurs the kind of top-down action we’re starting to see in the national and international climate change discussions.
The Governator wasted no opportunities to inject humor into the discussion to drive a point home, and at one point he even referenced the John Travolta movie Saturday Night Fever, saying without that movie, no matter how many government panels may have convened, “you would have never gotten that many discotheques built” not to mention the “billions of calories burned” as a result of those discos. He also mentioned his weight training campaign and how when his movie was first released bodybuilding was controversial and weight training wasn’t respected by health and sports professionals, but the movie got people talking, and today there is weight training in every nook and cranny of the world.
Popular movies and campaigns, said the governor, make things hip and cool, and this makes change happen faster and on a big scale, which is needed in climate change reform, if we are to meet the deadlines indicated by the scientific community in time to save our coral reefs and countless species from extinction.
Dr. Pachauri fully endorsed the governor’s position about solving the world’s biggest problems by coming at them from multiple levels, highlighting a revolutionary program Dr. Pachauri set in place called “Lighting a Billion Lives.” The program gives solar lanterns to women in impoverished communities and teaches them how to charge the lanterns during the day with a solar panel on the roof, and then rent them out at night.
This simple program is helping to reduce poverty by keeping money within communities which spurs economic growth, and the lanterns bring much needed light to these communities, so kids don’t need to do their homework in airport parking lots (a picture we saw in Thomas Friedman’s presentation)
Dr. Pachauri remarked that “Lighting a Billion Lives” is non-governmental program, and Governor Schwarzenegger saluted Dr. Pachauri for this bold action, which as Pachauri said illuminates Governor Schwarzenegger’s point that solving the biggest problems in the world requires looking at the problems from a multiple-level approach. Dr. Pachauri drew laughs when he admitted that nonetheless, he still probably won’t get into bodybuilding.
Governor Schwarzenegger said the United States needs to lead the developing countries in energy innovation, sustainability, and climate change reform because if we lead, he says, other countries will follow.