R20 Austrian World Summit

On May 15th Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austrian President Alexander Van Der Bellen and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz hosted the second-annual R20 Austrian World Summit in Vienna. Senator Fran Pavley and Jack Knott, Dean of the USC Price School of Public Policy, took part in the event with global leaders including UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen, and UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall. The Summit brought together practitioners from politics, business, civil society and academia to help regions, states and cities committed to implementing the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement and who share an interest in fostering innovative financial mechanisms at the sub-national level in order to create positive momentum ahead of this year’s UN Climate Change Conference COP 24 in Poland.

“This is a people’s issue,” Schwarzenegger said in his keynote remarks at the summit. “This is an issue about creating a future for our children and grandchildren that we can be proud of. It’s never an issue that ought to be politicized. There is no conservative or liberal here. We all breathe the same air.”

Schwarzenegger, Chairman of both the Schwarzenegger Institute at USC and the R20, was pleased that Dean Knott and Senator Pavley were able to take part in the May summit and talk about the important work that they are doing at USC to protect the environment, reduce pollution and end climate change.

“Climate change policy is a very important topic, not only for the world but also for the Price School,” Dean Knott said. “This seemed like a good opportunity to both represent USC Price at this global summit of very important leaders from around the world and to participate on a panel focusing on something we care deeply about.”

Dean Knott took part in a panel discussion on the role of nonprofits and universities in addressing the issue of climate change. Also participating in the panel was Terry Tamminen, former California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary and current CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, who is on the board of advisors at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute, and Helmut Anheier, President of Hertie School of Governance. 

Dean Knott discussed how the challenge of climate change is far bigger than nonprofits or universities can possibly solve, so their role must consider how they can support business and government involvement.  He asserted that foundations, accountable only to themselves and their missions, can test out new technologies or practices that the private sector finds too risky, creating a proof of concept that can leverage further investment from the private sector and governments.

Knott noted that the conference was important because the local and regional levels represented can play a similar catalytic role, and there were prominent people present who are able to influence policy.

“These R20 regions and sub-national governments can experiment more, try out different things and be an engine of change, even when you have a national government like the U.S. that’s not all that friendly to climate change policy at the moment,” Knott said.

Fran Pavley, a former California legislator who leads the promotion and expansion of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute’s Digital Environmental Legislative Handbook, also participated in a panel on implementation.  Senator Pavley talked about the important role that cities, states and regions can play in fighting pollution and addressing climate change and she talked about the importance of crafting smart legislation that balances economic growth with environmental protection.  

The summit was attended by 1,200 people and broadcast live on Austrian television.

“The fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger has formed the R20 and sponsors the summit, giving one of the opening keynotes, is really critical to its convening power,” Knott said. “He’s incredibly articulate and passionate about this issue. He wants this to be an ongoing effort that makes a difference, and he’s hoping to grow the number of participants in the future to collectively have a major impact over time.”