Governor’s office announces Climate Change Summit lineup

The Schwarzenegger administration has announced a diverse international lineup for its Governor's Global Climate Summit next week in Beverly Hills.

The conference is scheduled for Nov. 18 and 19 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It was first announced back in September, but the full lineup of speakers was only released on Tuesday.

The administration has billed the meeting as a part of the lead-up to the "post-Kyoto" climate agreement that international negotiators will be working out of the next several months. The summit will precede a Dec. 1-12 United Nations Climate Change conference in Poland that is intended to help lay the groundwork for a new worldwide agreement in 2009.

"That was part of the importance of the timing, partly since it's an opportunity for states and provinces to influence their national governments before the meeting in Poland in December," said Lisa Page, a spokeswoman for the governor.

The conference will feature several of the most prominent governors from other US states, including Charlie Crist of Florida and Jim Doyle of Wisconsin. Two other governors who have been in the news lately will be there-Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas is seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, while Rod Blagojevich of Illinois now has the task of naming a Senate successor to President-elect Barack Obama.

It will also a feature a trio of high-ranking Chinese officials, led by Guangsheng Gao, director general of the Department of Climate Change, in that country's National Development Reform Commission. Chinese participation is seen by many as a must-have for any world climate agreement moving forward.

However, some in California are questioning the timing of the governor calling a high-profile climate conference when he is suggesting changes they say could hurt efforts to address climate at home. With the state facing a $28 billion budget deficit going forward, he has suggested suspending the CEQA environmental review process for many transportation and water projects.

Other proposals brought up by the administration to save money include scaling back transit projects and delaying the implementation of SB 375, the transportation followup to the AB 32 greenhouse gas law. This bill, carried by new Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has been hailed as the beginning of the end of the freeway building boom in California. The ideas have been put forward during a special session of the lame duck legislature the governor called last week.

Several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the National Resource Defense Council, are planning on sending a letter to the administration today to protest these measures.

"The notion that he's trying to be a green governor and at the same time saying we can put a bunch of infrastructure projects with no environmental review is completely backwards," said Tina Andolina, legislative director of the Planning and Conservation League. She added, "We don't have to do away without environmental safeguards to get the economy moving again."

Page said she could not comment on a letter the administration had not yet seen. But she added, "The governor believes protecting the environment and getting the economy moving again go hand-in-hand."

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