NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Organizers hope a gathering of governors this week will be as effective in addressing climate change as a similar event that launched the conservation movement a century ago. As many as 10 governors and leading experts on global warming plan to attend the conference Thursday and Friday at Yale University, and review state programs and develop a strategy to combat global climate change.
“I think we have high hope this will mark a significant turning point in a commitment to action on climate change,” said Dan Esty, a Yale environmental law professor and director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy.
The conference is part of a series of initiatives designed to pressure officials to take action, Esty said.
He cited former Vice President Al Gore’s new three-year, multimillion-dollar advocacy campaign calling for the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, along with proposed federal laws, a partnership between business and environmental groups calling for curbs on emissions, and measures or commitments by 28 states and 600 mayors to address the issue.
Esty also noted that all three presidential candidates favor stronger action to deal with climate change.
The gathering will also celebrate the centennial of President Theodore Roosevelt’s landmark 1908 Conference of Governors. That conference launched the modern conservation movement and planted the seed for the National Parks System and significant state efforts to protect land.
“Roosevelt showed remarkable foresight a century ago in engaging the states’ chief executive officers to preserve and protect the nation’s natural resources,” Yale President Richard C. Levin said in a recent statement. “Now, we face a new and critical challenge — global climate change — and leadership in the United States is coming from visionary state governors.”
Governors who plan to attend the conference include M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Christine Gregoire of Washington and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. Quebec Premier Jean Charest will also be there.
Theodore Roosevelt IV will speak Friday about the legacy of his great-grandfather.
Dr. R. K. Pachauri, chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will address the gathering.
For its part, Yale has tried to lead the way with an initiative to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below the university’s 1990 level by 2020.
Yale says its greenhouse gas reduction target is comparable to the reduction needed globally to keep temperatures from rising above a level that the scientific consensus forecasts would produce greatly intensified damaging impacts from warming.
Among the state initiatives, a tailpipe emissions law in California would force automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by 2016.
But the Environmental Protection Agency recently blocked California from cracking down on auto emissions by saying global warming isn’t unique to the state and a new federal fuel efficiency law was a better approach.
At least 16 other states were also blocked from enacting the greenhouse gas emissions reductions sought by California. Esty predicted that decision would be overturned on appeal.