But on Tuesday in Los Angeles, where he attended a summit on climate change with American and Chinese leaders, he was targeting Republicans.
Brown described "political pollution" in Washington and said the refusal of the party's presidential candidates to tackle global warming is "nothing less than a dereliction of duty."
"They have failed to respond to a profoundly serious threat," the governor said.
Republican presidential candidates are gathering at the Reagan Library for a debate on Wednesday.
A Republican mayor from Indiana, James Brainard, who was attending the event, said he wants his party to take a firmer environmental stance.
"Our leadership is listening to too much of the pollution coming off talk radio and the TV shows," he said.
Last week, Brown and Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) dropped a proposal for reducing petroleum use by half over the next 15 years. The rest of the legislation, which increases renewable energy and energy efficiency, was passed by the Legislature, but lawmakers were not able to get enough support among Democrats for the gasoline component.
Brown said he would use state programs and regulatory authority that's already in place to chip away at how much gas Californians burn.
"It would have been great to have that codification," he said. "But we're still on track."
When it comes to getting more action on climate change, Brown said, "We've got to win the minds and hearts all over California."
The summit, hosted by Mayor Eric Garcetti, was a chance for local leaders from the U.S. and China to discuss ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
"It's up to us to model the pathways," Brown said.
Los Angeles and the Chinese city of Zhenjiang on Tuesday signed an international pledge spearheaded by the governor to set stringent climate change targets for 2050.
Follow @chrismegerian for more updates.