SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday abruptly canceled his plans to attend an international climate conference in Scotland next week, citing family issues.
Newsom had been planning as of Monday to lead a cadre of 15 lawmakers and the heads of five state agencies to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow to tout California’s emissions-cutting policies and call for more action from other governments. His office attributed his reversal to “family obligations” but provided no other details. First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom also canceled her attendance.
Lieutenant Gov. Eleni Kounalakis will take Newsom’s place, his office said.
Climate change has long figured centrally in California’s agenda as the state takes aggressive strides to limit fossil fuel consumption. Newsom just issued a rule separating oil wells from homes and schools, handing a major victory to environmentalists. He was also planning to talk up his 2020 executive order banning the sale of internal-combustion vehicles by 2035 and his recently passed state budget, which contains about $15 billion over three years for electric vehicles, wildfire risk and other climate programs.
Officials said in a call with reporters on Friday they would seek to highlight the state’s strong economy; the costs of climate change, including wildfires and oil spills; its work on environmental justice; and the fact that the state isn’t “waiting for Washington” to take action on climate.
“We’re all watching the president, cheering him and our D.C. partners on as they fight for an ambitious reconciliation bill and infrastructure package that prioritizes climate,” said senior climate adviser Lauren Sanchez. “While the fate of the package remains up in the air, California charges forward.”
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cast the talks in a skeptical light earlier this week, saying that “nothing gets done” at them and that national pledges aren’t backed up by emissions reductions. Expectations are low, with officials from multiple countries warning they might not be able to keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
One official who is planning to attend the talks said Newsom would be missed but that the delegation would be fine without him.
“California climate change policies are not a single person, but an array of far-reaching experiments that have shown the world we lead and don’t follow,” said former state senator and Air Resources Board member Dean Florez.
Carla Marinucci contributed to this report.
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