Breaking News: We interviewed Bay Area Senator Bob Wieckowski from the front lines of the UN climate meeting (COP24) in Poland this week.

Sen. Wieckowski represents the 10th Senate District -covering southern Alameda County and Northeast Santa Clara County- in the state legislature. He chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Cmt. where he plays an important role in shaping many climate bills.  When we heard Sen. Wieckowski was traveling to Katowice, Poland to participate in several meetings surrounding the UN climate meetings (COP24), we asked his staff if he would like to write a blog sharing his experiences. He graciously agreed to answer our questions. See his responses below.

From a press conference where Mr Wieckowski spoke with reps from Sub-national governments and ARB Chairwoman, Mary Nichols.

Who is attending COP 24 from the state Legislature?

I have been informed that Senator Bob Hertzberg and I are the only two legislative representatives attending this year’s United Nations Conference of Parties in Poland. There are other California officials here, but we are the only two from the Legislature.

Why is it important for California to be represented at COP24?

Climate change and income inequality are the two defining issues of our time environmentally and economically.  We have an extensive climate change policy framework established and we are growing a clean economy in California – it is critical that we have a presence here.

Every nation on Earth is threatened by climate change. Having face-to- face dialogues on strategies, goals and experiences is vital to overcoming the challenges. Critics say we cannot solve this by ourselves.  I agree. That’s why we are here and that’s why every nation has signed onto the Paris Accord. President Trump wants us to withdraw and his actions are certainly detrimental to our climate and the health and safety of Americans.  You will see California continue to do all it can to fill the leadership vacuum that exists in the White House on climate change issues. It is very disheartening to see the US federal government abdicate its global leadership responsibilities on climate issues.

What do you hope to share with international partners about California’s climate efforts?

At a meeting Stronger Together for 2020, with a climate business coalition called “We Mean Business”

I am participating on some panels and press conferences regarding sustainable mobility, raising climate ambition and how the midterm elections affect our state and national efforts.  I am here to relay the array of policies we have enacted in California – Cap & Trade, renewable portfolio standard, low carbon fuel standards and the investments we are making in clean vehicle rebates, and bus and truck fleet modernizations.  The benefit to these types of conferences is sharing what has worked, what needs to be improved and hearing what others are doing.

What do you hope to learn and bring back?

A renewed sense of optimism on climate issues.  Recent reports paint an alarming view of the future if we do not increase our ambition to curb greenhouse gas emissions.  Those reports, combined with growing instability in other nations, are very worrisome. But when you listen to other representatives from around the world, and people in the private sector who focus on climate issues, it reminds one that serious people are constantly working on these issues every day in their own communities.  We need a more vigorous approach at the national level across the globe. California will continue to move forward and work with our subnational partners from around the world and we will do so with the added knowledge gained from COP 24.

What would you like your constituents to know about your involvement in this global climate summit?

That I understand the urgency to address the threats caused by climate change and I am continuing my work to put more sound policies in place to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, increase sustainable mobility and invest in climate adaptation programs.  I chair a committee and subcommittee that oversee the policy and fiscalissues of climate change in California. When you have climate leaders and decision-makers from across the world participating in one event it is an important opportunity to listen, learn, and most importantly, advance our collective effort to reduce the rate of greenhouse gas emissions.  Other leaders are interested in hearing California’s perspective, and we can learn a lot from the experiences of other nations and cities.

Why is it important for your district?

Fortunately, I represent a district (SD 10) that is very advanced when it comes to clean energy issues. California as a whole accounts for nearly a third of our nation’s clean energy jobs.  My constituents have benefited from electric vehicle rebates, which help us put more clean vehicles on the road, and we have also benefited from clean energy programs out of the state treasurer’s office.

There’s a large private sector presence here because corporations understand they are threatened by climate change and have a large role to play.  We benefit economically by the relationships that are formed and improved here and clean energy companies are a growing part of our state economy. That benefits voters, provides jobs, and reduces adverse health impacts, which also saves us money in the long run.

Final Notes from 350BA

As the 2 week UN meeting wraps up, 350 Bay Area will post several blogs analyzing what happened in Poland and how it relates to our work here in California, the accelerating climate crisis and need for solutions NOW.

We hope you find this interview informative and, if you live in his district, let Mr. Wieckowski know what you think. We thank him and his staff for providing this blog to us.

Senator Wieckowski’s webpage