‘Governator’ to talk climate at conference

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is scheduled to visit Yale next month to deliver an address on climate change, University officials confirmed last week.

Schwarzenegger will speak at a conference of state governors at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies on April 17 and 18. The event will not be publicly announced until this week at the earliest, but officials disclosed some details about the conference in advance in response to an inquiry by the News.

The meeting will come exactly one century after President Theodore Roosevelt beckoned the nation’s governors to the White House in 1908 for an environmental conference organized by U.S. Forest Service chief and FES co-founder Gifford Pinchot 1889.

At that summit, the conservation movement was born.

“In our case, 100 years later, we are convening the governors of the United States to discuss what we consider the most challenging issue of our time, which is climate change,” said Melissa Goodall, the associate director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, which is organizing the event.

All 50 state governors, as well as their counterparts in the U.S. territories and Canada, have been invited to the conference, although administrators expect only a fraction of them to attend. State environmental-protection commissioners from around the country and at least two former administrators of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, among them former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, are also expected to make the journey to New Haven.

R.K. Pachauri, a one-time FES visiting professor who received the Nobel Peace Prize last year on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for which he serves as chairman, is also slated to attend, as is Theodore Roosevelt IV, a great-grandson of the president and an environmental activist himself.

Aside from the A-list crowd, the conference will be centered on the unveiling of a policy statement — agreed upon by governors and state environmental-protection officials from across the country — that “effectively calls for a partnership approach between the federal and state government on addressing climate change,” Goodall said.

Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy will coordinate the statement. She was not immediately available for comment last week.

Schwarzenegger’s speech, as well as a roundtable discussion among the governors on the topic of climate change, is expected to be open to the public, although the time of the speech has not yet been disclosed. Reached by telephone last week, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger would not confirm the governor’s planned visit but said more details would be available as the date of the conference neared.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, made headlines in 2006 when he signed into law the first enforceable, statewide cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. The program is among the cornerstones of his tenure as governor and drew worldwide praise at the time of its unveiling.

It also addresses an issue that has been a major focus for University President Richard Levin and FES in recent years. During a speech at the University of Copenhagen in January, he called on the world’s economic powers to take action on global warming.

“All of us would like to see the federal government step up — but short of that, the kinds of things that Gov. Schwarzenegger has been pursuing have been very positive,” Levin said Saturday. “He certainly has been a major leader in this field.”

Yale, meanwhile, is making its own effort to fend off global warming: The University is already several years ahead of schedule in its initiative to realize, by 2020, a 10-percent cut in its greenhouse-gas emissions from 1990 levels.

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