State govs to attend climate conference

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell confirmed Thursday that she will attend Yale’s summit on climate change next month, while the University announced four other state governors — including California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, which the News reported last week — have made plans to come to New Haven.

Among those slated to attend are Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Christine Gregoire of Washington and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, along with the premier of Quebec, Jean Charest; a dozen other governors are still determining whether their schedules will accommodate the conference, Yale officials said.

The conference, scheduled for April 17 and 18, will come 100 years after President Theodore Roosevelt summoned the governors to the White House and effectively launched the conservation movement. This time, officials at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies plan to tackle what they call the prime environmental issue of the modern age.

“Roosevelt showed remarkable foresight a century ago in engaging the states’ chief executive officers to preserve and protect the nation’s natural resources,” University President Richard Levin said. “Now, we face a new and critical challenge — global climate change — and leadership in the United States is coming from visionary state governors.”

Other special guests will include the winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, R. K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrators Christine Todd Whitman and Carol Browner; and Theodore Roosevelt IV, a great-grandson of the president and an environmental activist in his own right.

Rell, a Republican, “plans to roll out Connecticut’s welcome mat for the nation’s governors and climate-change experts,” spokesman Adam Liegeot ’94 said.

“Governor Rell hopes that this summit will allow leaders from across the country to compare notes and share ideas and solutions,” Liegeot said. “Governor Rell feels that states must speak with a unified voice in urging the federal government to develop a stronger, more meaningful national approach to addressing climate change.”

Indeed, the conference will be structured around 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,” said Melissa Goodall, the associate director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, which is organizing the event.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, drew worldwide attention two years ago when he signed into law the first statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions, and several of the other governors who will be attending have made climate change a focus of their administrations.

The summit should be another way to bring attention to an issue that needs it, and one that the federal government has not tackled, said Jim Gardner, a spokesman for Corzine.

“Frankly, on the federal level, they seem to have dropped the ball on addressing this problem that impacts every individual in the entire world,” Gardner said Thursday. “Heightening awareness of this — whether regionally, nationally or globally — is an important step to preserving the environment and to reducing something that can ultimately threaten the ecosystem of our plane.”

The conference — which had been kept under wraps as administrators worked behind the scenes to recruit governors for the events — was first reported by the News last week, although it was not announced publicly by the University until a news release was e-mailed to reporters Thursday.

Schwarzenegger and Pachauri are scheduled to deliver public speeches on climate change April 18, although the times of their addresses have not yet been finalized. More details about the summit should be available next week, Goodall said.

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