Federal Climate Action with Gov. Jerry Brown

By Danielle Elliott and Isabel Lyndon

California’s former governor Jerry Brown offers the most immediate actions that President-elect Joe Biden could take to address climate change in this Climate Break exclusive.

Governor Brown explains how the U.S. can help countries like China and India address climate change through global cooperation.

Governor Brown offers advice on how President-elect Joe Biden can ensure his climate policies incorporate equity, particularly for communities struggling economically.

Former four-term California Governor Jerry Brown sat down with Climate Break to discuss policy solutions and possible government actions on climate change. While in office from 1975-1983 and then 2011-2019, Gov. Brown instituted significant environmental protections and regulations that became the standards for the nation to follow. Now retired, Gov. Brown continues to drive international conversation on clean energy, market climate solutions and global cooperation on climate change mitigation.

Read more about some of Gov. Brown’s climate policies while he was in office, including his plan for economy-wide carbon neutrality, here. Or read about Governor Brown’s five pillars of climate action from his 2015 State of the State speech.

For more information on international collaborative efforts on climate change policy check out the California-China Institute and the Under2 Coalition:

The California-China Climate Institute: Led by former California Governor Jerry Brown in partnership with Xie Zhenhua, China’s Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs, the Institute hopes toinform national policy makers, foster cooperation, and promote the implementation of climate solutions at all levels through research, training and dialogue. 

The Under2 Coalition: A global community of state and regional governments committed to ambitious climate action in line with the Paris Agreement, Under2 seeks to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.


Gov. Jerry Brown’s Advice for President-Elect Biden on Climate Change

Ethan: This is Ethan Elkind of Climate Break. I spoke recently to former California Governor Jerry Brown to find out how he thinks the Biden Administration should address climate change, after four years of radical neglect at the federal level. Surprisingly, he told me that it’s not about any one policy measure, like a carbon tax or mandates for renewable energy. Instead, he wants the administration to collaborate:

Gov. Brown: Bring in key members of Congress, Senate, and House. Put them in the same room with some serious climate people, scientists, people who know what they’re doing, as well as people like Mary Nichols from the California Air Resources Board.” Formulate the agenda in some kind of a joint effort with Congress. Don’t be a cowboy, you know, saddle up and ride into the sunset. No, get the key players and get them on board. 

Ethan: The next step, Gov Brown says, is to deal with the lobbyists:

Gov. Brown: They’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get their way. So if you don’t deal with them, you’re not going to get anywhere. So this is why Biden, with all his experience, is the perfect man. He’s been around. This is not romanticism here. We’re not looking for some utopian walk in the sun. This is hard, but imaginative, scientific, political work.

Ethan: To learn more about some of the examples of past successes that Governor Brown cited in this interview, and for more climate solutions, visit climatebreak.org or whenever you get your podcasts.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Why Nations Will Want to Collaborate on Climate Actions

Ethan: How can countries be better at cooperating on climate action? This is Ethan Elkind of Climate Break. Former California Governor Jerry Brown joined us recently to talk about a “planetary realism,” a new kind of approach he advocates for climate action on a global scale:

Gov. Brown: I have a different, international philosophy and I call it planetary realism, based on the recognition that countries have national interests, but outside of that there is something called a shared interest, shared vulnerability. And that is quintessentially what climate entails.

Ethan: This mutual vulnerability with climate change is something the governor says has no precedent in our history. He encourages President-Elect Joe Biden to work with other countries on climate change.

Gov. Brown: It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the China sea or in the Gulf of Mexico, climate change is still working its effects. So in that respect, China, California, and America are one. We are on one planet with one atmospheric system that we need to understand and we need to respect. And we need to alter human behavior, and human activity, so we can be on the side of nature in a way that won’t keep the carbon emissions going up. 

Ethan: For more information on Governor Brown’s approach to global climate action, and for more climate solutions, go to climatebreak.org or wherever you get your podcasts.

Gov. Jerry Brown on President-Elect Biden and Climate Equity

Ethan: This is Ethan Elkind of Climate Break. Recently we chatted with former California Governor Jerry Brown about climate equity to find out how he’d advise the Biden Administration to make sure its climate policies benefit communities struggling economically.

Gov. Brown: D​ealing with climate is also investing in the economy. And I hope that Biden will make major investments with his $2 trillion climate plan. While doing that, you have to keep in mind the equity component. Who’s getting hired? Can you do work that can be made available to people who need those jobs and who can be trained and who can go up the ladder of ever better career activity? 

Ethan: Beyond green job creation, Brown advises ensuring that dollars spent to address climate change are distributed among the hardest hit, most disadvantaged communities first.

Gov. Brown: T​he climate plan should take the redistributional challenge, given the gross disparities that now exist. There’s no magic wand other than, okay, you’re going to do this climate action, how does that affect people? What’s the consequence? And I can tell you, if you’re a low-income person, you’re probably in a neighborhood that needs a lot of, a lot of work and a lot of consideration, not the least of which would be the effects of airborne pollutants. And that ought to be integral to any kind of climate plan.

Ethan: For examples of climate policies that can help communities disadvantaged by discrimination and pollution, and for more insights from Governor Brown, and more climate solutions, go to ClimateBreak.org or wherever you get your podcasts.

Federal Climate Action with Gov. Jerry Brown