Fighting climate change was a lonely undertaking at times for Arnold Schwarzenegger while he was the last Republican governor in the liberal state of California. The landmark global warming law he championed more than a decade ago received only a single vote from a member of his party in the Legislature.
He relied on Democrats to seal the deal, providing the foundation for the state’s cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gas emissions. But the political landscape is different now, and Gov. Jerry Brown’s successful bid to extend the program received eight Republican votes on Monday.
We spoke to Schwarzenegger about it on Tuesday morning.
How does it feel to see increasing bipartisan support for an issue you’ve championed?
Our political reforms have taken hold here in California, and the redistricting and the open primaries have brought people to the center. We have seen more Republicans voting on issues that they usually thought were Democratic issues. That’s a bunch of nonsense, because how can the environment be a Democratic issue?
It’s great to see Republicans coming more to the center and help pass this very important legislation, in the Senate and also in the Assembly. That was only a dream of mine when I did the environmental laws in 2006. There was just no one there for Republicans. I’m really proud of them. The Republican Party has moved forward in a big step.
This could be a really great inspiration for other Republicans around the country. To look at this and say they had the guts to do something that is right. Why don’t we try to do what is right, not just what is right for the party, but what is right for the people?
What kind of conversations did you have with Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes before the vote?
We met beforehand. He’s a terrific guy. He has a great vision. Whenever you do something like this and do something that’s right for the people and not necessarily right for the party, they beat up on you. They accuse you of being a Republican in name only, or that you sold out.
I come from Austria. There’s always something stuck in you from when you grow up. I grew up in a great environment .... It was natural for me to fight for that, and not look at it as a party issue and look at it at a people issue.
You’ve been critical of President Trump’s stance on climate change. What message do you hope he takes from California’s vote?
This is a great inspiration to every state and to the federal government, and to Trump himself. This should be an inspiration to the rest of the world.
Everyone loves California. It’s such a well-known place. It’s kind of a nation state in a way. This will spread like wildfire. I know the German papers and the Austrian papers and the French papers are all going to go and report on that.