Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs
Governors' Global Climate Summit 3 (GGCS3)
University of California-Davis
November 16, 2010

Good afternoon, I want to thank Governor Schwarzenegger for inviting me to offer some remarks to open this session on Global Impact and Collaboration of efforts like this Governors Global Climate Change Summit (GGCS3). I am also delighted to see that he is personally attending and adding his energy to the session. It is so appropriate that this session is hosted by California’s Secretary of Education, Bonnie Reiss. Thank you Secretary Reiss. I want to thank the University of California Davis and its Chancellor Linda Katehi for hosting the meeting. Further, let me add my thanks to all the US and foreign dignitaries. And thanks to Anne Thompson of NBC for getting the word out and importantly to you all for attending this session and participating. I am delighted to be speaking to you today on behalf of the U. S. Department of State.

The U. S. Department of State is actively involving local leaders across the world to interact with their counterparts in the United States of America through the recent creation of the Office of the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs. I accepted Secretary Clinton’s invitation to be appointed as the first Special Representative in this new office. Our Office works with the different functional and regional bureaus within the State Department to facilitate addressing challenges such as security, health, food and water, and climate change.

While national level response as well as countries and regions working together is so very important, the hand that helps needs to be near... the dry mouth to be wetted, the hungry stomach to be fed, and the sick child to be comforted…. with soothing warmth right on the hot feverish forehead…… The case for a local response to these natural challenges is that obvious indeed.

All of the challenges have different face, context, solution and impact in different parts of the world and at different levels of State and Local governments. One component of our success is measuring and accessing the challenges accurately and coming up with a thoughtful and effective solution. Can we do this again in the face of perpetual needs and challenges such as security, food, water, and health and new challenges such as climate change?

People around the globe are suffering as a result of lack of potable water and food as well as food distribution networks. Health care is excellent in many parts of the world and has led to great life expectancy and generally desirable growth in the population. However, sustainable quality, diversity, and fair distribution of resources remain human challenges. These are global challenges and national policies and planning and resourcing of responses by nation states are essential.

Through human history some, thankfully few but historic, grand challenges have required responses from larger units than the family and neighborhoods. In fact, this is why human beings formed the larger structures such as villages and towns, cities and boroughs, states and countries. All entities are different in size and structure and are located in different weather zones, latitudes and longitudes, and have developed unique historic relations with nature. The equatorial forest and the coniferous forest are both valuable but breathe differently and need different levels of care.

A few meters rise in the mean sea level has very different meaning to a man in Kansas compared to a man in New Orleans. However, a few meters rise in the water level in the river that runs from Kansas to Louisiana may mean the same thing to both. We are connected by waterways and oceans, canals, and channels and roadways and passes through many mountains. We have also seen different degrees of changes in the mean temperature, varying from minus two to plus five. It takes trusted partnerships and dialogues between these global communities to work with each other in spite of the differences in regional climate changes and their resulting impacts.

Many of the problems such as the global economy and unemployment are such that State Governments around USA must work together in bilateral, multilateral, and regional groups. For example, the Council of State Governments (CSG) is a group that brings together the executive and legislative sides of the State Governments within the United States of America to work on important issues with the help of the Federal Government. CSG has published a series of reports highlighting the importance of State and local actions on alleviating the root causes of greenhouse gas emissions while creating innovative ideas for local economies involving transportation, housing and electric utilities.

Our office has facilitated climate change discussions between States and US Territories and their counterparts in neighbouring countries and countries across continents. We are realizing that issues like local energy sources, electric grid, and transportation infrastructure are inherently enter-twined with climate change issues. Each state, city and local community of course has different needs and basis for approaching some of these challenges.

We have collaborated with offices such as Oceans and Environmental Sciences within the State Department to support programs such as Eco-Partnerships. Eco-Partnerships involve sub-State organizations such as Counties and Cities working with their counterparts in China to address specific problems associated with global disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes in some cases and with opportunities such as renewable energy development in other cases.

We are participating in meetings and represented the importance of local actions at meetings held, among others by the:

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),

International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI),

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum,

African Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) forum.

These presentations communicate the fact that the people of the United States of America care about the challenges facing humanity and are contributing their best to potential solutions especially at the regional and subnational levels.

This Friday evening, I will be participating in a World Summit in Mexico City organized by the United Cities and Local Governments head-quartered in Spain. I am here until tomorrow and then flying to Mexico City and then over the weekend to China to connect with subnational leaders in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities before returning for a UN accredited Centre for Climate Strategies panel in the COP-16 discussions in Cancun on December 6 and 7.

A note worthy feature of President Obama’s recent Climate Action Report involves an entire chapter on the importance of local response that was facilitated by our office.

While much of our effort is proactive, we also face the sad fact that disasters such as the Haiti earthquake require reactive responses at all levels. We have encouraged American and world mayors to support Haiti’s reconstruction efforts. Much has been accomplished but even more needs to be strived for.

To summarize, there is a lot of work needed at the state and local government level and we are just delighted to see the response from all around the world.