Brown pushes climate policy with Pope Francis

Jerry BrownThis week, Gov. Jerry Brown drew global headlines as one of the most outspoken officials at a world conference on climate change and slavery hosted in Vatican City by Pope Francis.

A play for leadership

Gov. Brown was intent on taking the opportunity to speak more to a national and even local audience than to the planet at large. “With mayors from San Francisco, San Jose and eight other U.S. cities in the audience, Brown gave a glowing review of his own achievements in cutting emissions in California, offering it as a template for mayors around the world to follow,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

But the governor did make plain his ambition that others around the world might look to the Golden State for a blueprint, or at least an inspiration. Well-known as a former Jesuit seminarian, Brown leveraged his reputation to connect up California’s climate policy to the possible policy agenda of Catholics around the world.

“I believe what people at the Vatican are looking for is some hopeful news and reports that yes, climate change can be dealt with,” Gov. Brown told Bloomberg. “My message: that even though this is a very profound and difficult problem, California is showing a way whereby the countries of the world can actually do something very positive.”

He singled out Pope Francis for moving the Catholic church in what many observers have described as a markedly more assertive direction on economic matters. “”I’m very impressed with Pope Francis and where he’s taking the church — I see the hand of Jesuit training and inspiration in what he’s doing,” Brown told reporters with the Contra Costa Times. “The pope is engaging in moral authority and calling people to reflect on the basis of those considerations. This is desperately needed to counteract the iron logic of the marketplace, which is only dealing with profit.”

Gov. Brown emphasized that his Vatican visit was a prelude to the larger United Nations conference on climate change soon to be put on in Paris. “To achieve anything in Paris, we’ll need grass-roots efforts by religious leaders and states and provinces,” he said, “to intensify the pressure on these national leaders to get more done than is currently on their respective agendas.”

Politicking religion

Senate Democrats ensured Brown had a token of appreciation to take with him. SR37, passed with what the Los Angeles Times called near-unanimity, called upon the state to “consider the implications of the papal encyclical and climate change in their policy and fiscal actions to prevent further environmental degradation.”

The bill’s language foreshadowed what top Sacramento Democrats hoped would become a big new raft of state energy regulations. Senate leader Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, has advanced a sweeping piece of legislation drawing some fire, but not enough to blunt its progress. “Oil companies have ramped up opposition,” reported the Times, “and utilities are angling for changes in the bill that would make it easier for them to fulfill requirements to produce renewable energy. But so far, no one has been able to stop the legislation, which has passed the state Senate and is advancing in the Assembly.” De León told the Times “the world is watching what happens in Sacramento very closely.”

The remarkably — but selectively — church-friendly resolution did draw some skepticism. As the Times reported, Sen. Joel Anderson, R-San Diego, “criticized a ‘cafeteria attitude’ to the encyclical, where statements on climate change are endorsed and opposition to abortion is ignored.” As Francis has attracted increasing appreciation from those further to the political left than usually praise the Church, Catholic conservatives have often insisted that his economic views cannot be endorsed in isolation, while other  conservatives nationwide have questioned his economic credentials.

Related Articles

Rebels in Leland Yee case make peace with Philippine government

A separatist Muslim rebel group in the Philippines, and the alleged supplier of weapons to State Senator Leland Yee, has signed

CA poised for higher primary profile

Accustomed to languishing at the tail end of the party primary calendar — a dispiriting position for a state that has long

CalSTRS unfunded liability hits new high

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System just announced it faces $73.7 billion in long-term liabilities. Left untouched, that would spell