Step by Step - from California to Cancun

I arrived here in Cancun earlier this week directly from the annual Green California Summit, a gathering of dozens of environmental, public health, labor, businesses, advocacy organizations and many others  who are working together to address and find solutions to the key challenges facing California today. We heard from one speaker after another about the resolve to move forward with a clean energy economy to create jobs and recover our State’s economy.  There were a lot of nodding heads on Monday  - from environmental to labor to investors and more. It really feels like California is on the move.  Once I got here, I was heartened to hear from all corners of the world, how the message the voters of our State sent, by defeating Prop 23 which would have effectively killed California’s clean energy programs, has given encouragement and hope to diplomats and activists struggling to reach agreement on moving forward together to combat climate change. 

Now, it’s the last day of these official UN negotiations. I’ve been asked what it is about California that has allowed enough agreement to exist and progress to be made? 

First, Californians don’t debate the science. We see the changing water cycle.  We see our friends and families struggling with health problems caused by polluted air. 

Second, for all its fits and starts, California has a comparatively participatory political system – people get a chance to be heard, but once they’ve been heard, the responsible officials, whether they’re elected or appointed, make decisions.  They actually come to a conclusion and vote on it.  The outcome never makes everyone happy, but enough people see their input in the product that they continue to work on it.  Sure, we just saw how sore losers don’t always stop protesting (witness Prop 23 early promoter Rep. Tom McClintock who voted “no” on AB 32 when he was a State Senator in 2006 – at least he’s consistent), but those fights are held in the open where we have a chance to hear the arguments. 

Third, we’ve collected a critical mass of people across sectors who want to make this work.  Business leaders, unions, non profits, public sector, private sector – we all are on board to get something done.  Success in taking concrete steps, building clean energy, retraining workers – they all add up and the more people see there’s a future in a clean economy, the more they want to be part of it and see a place for themselves.

The key is making a decision and moving forward. Step by step.