Steinmeier: Going for the California cool instead of D.C.

30th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

San Francisco (dpa) - With his popularity near record lows, few people think that US President George Bush is very cool any more. But that's not the reason that German Foreign Minister Frank- Walter Steinmeier is by-passing the US capital on a visit to the US starting Thursday aimed at promoting policies and technologies for combating climate change. In fact, it's said to be the first time in half a century a German foreign minister has officially visited California, and the second time a foreign statesman

San Francisco (dpa) - With his popularity near record lows, few people think that US President George Bush is very cool any more.

But that's not the reason that German Foreign Minister Frank- Walter Steinmeier is by-passing the US capital on a visit to the US starting Thursday aimed at promoting policies and technologies for combating climate change.

In fact, it's said to be the first time in half a century a German foreign minister has officially visited California, and the second time a foreign statesman has gone there in the past year on an anti- global-warming mission.

Washington under George Bush has turned its back on the environment, and only since January has Bush conceded carbon emissions could be an urgent problem that needs attention.

At the same time, an unlikely environmental champion emerged in California, the world's sixth largest economy and the undoubted centre of US technological innovation.

That hero of cool and nemesis of global warming is none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. The gun-toting former action star, who was once a poster boy for gas-guzzling excess with his fleet of monstrous Hummer sport utility vehicles, is now one of the most influential pro-environment politicians in the world.

He symbolized his conversion to the green cause by modifying one of his Hummers to run on hydrogen in a move which was rightly blasted as nothing but an empty public relations ploy. But he backed it up by pushing laws that make California the most eco-friendly place in the US. In doing so Schwarzenegger, a Republican, both symbolically and literally levelled withering criticism at the outmoded, oil-centric views and policies promulgated by his party leaders in Washington.

"California will not wait for our federal government to take strong action on global warming," said Schwarzenegger last summer when he wooed Bush's closest ally British Prime Minister Tony Blair into an historic agreement to collaborate on climate change and clean energy policies.

"International partnerships are needed in the fight against global warming and California has a responsibility and a profound role to play to protect not only our environment, but to be a world leader on this issue as well."

In 2005, Schwarzenegger championed legislation to reduce the state's carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. His Climate Action Team has identified 40 strategies to reduce global warming, including a million-home solar energy initiative, a carbon-trading programme and plans for a hydrogen highway stretching from British Columbia to Mexico.

He has ordered the state's electricity suppliers to produce 20 per cent of their power from renewable sources by 2010 and signed environmental agreements with Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico, New York, Utah and Washington, as well as the UK, and states in Australia, Canada and Mexico.

Steinmeier has cited that record as the reason for becoming the first German foreign minister for 50 years to travel to California.

"California is a trailblazer in environmental and climate protection," he said, according to the German daily newspaper, Die Welt. "In Silicon Valley it promotes state-of-the-art research into renewable energies and in environmental and climate policy it seeks close cooperation with Europe.

"Along with other West Coast states, California is currently advancing its own emission-trading system in order to contain CO2 emissions. We must seize this opportunity and coordinate our policy more closely with California and all other willing US states so as to create a transatlantic trade in CO2."

Lofty goals indeed - but not all environmentalists are convinced that they are the best way forward. They accuse Schwarzenegger of focusing attention on international environmental issues while ignoring the nuts and bolts measures that could have a more immediate effect on reducing California's carbon footprint.

California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat, recently told Schwarzenegger that his push for a carbon trading market was "premature and unnecessary" and was aimed at providing a safety net for businesses to buy their way out of a pollution crisis.

"It's a little bit like going on a diet and buying calories from other people," said John White, director of the Centre for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. "The question is, who is going to start eating less?"

DPA

Subject: German news

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