Brown touts ‘coercive power of government’ to attack climate change

Jerry Brown
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to the media after a signing ceremony at the COP 21, the U.N. climate change conference in Paris.
(Matt Hartman / Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown has been doing more than just touting California’s environmental policies here – he’s been making an explicit case for the power of government.

It’s rare for a politician to tout the benefits of regulations, which are often dismissed as nothing more than red tape for slowing down businesses. But at multiple events during the United Nations summit on Monday, Brown said politicians need to be willing to use the blunt force of government intervention to tackle climate change.

“You need the coercive power of government to say, do this,” the governor said during a panel discussion in the morning.

He added, “This is an art and a science. You have to push business further than they want to go, but within their capacity to reach it.”


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He cited California’s renewable energy rules, which require 50% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, as an example.

Later in the day, at the conference center outside of Paris where negotiators are working on a new international climate accord, he boasted of how California supported the catalytic converter, which helps make vehicle emissions less harmful. “That was regulation inspiring innovation,” he said.

“Never underestimate the coercive power of a central state in the service of good and wisdom,” he said. “You can screw it up, but you can also do it well.”


The governor has bemoaned the lack of political will to confront climate change in other areas of the United States, and he urged other leaders to take stronger steps.

“Listen to industry, listen to scientists,” he said. “But at the end of the day, you have to march forward.”

Twitter: @chrismegerian


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