Schwarzenegger Rallies Climate Actions Heroes at Third Annual R20 Austrian World Summit

Even though he’s been known to make a memorable movie quip, Arnold Schwarzenegger has always been a man of action.

It should be no surprise that for the third-annual R20 Austrian World Summit, the former California governor who now heads the USC Schwarzenegger Institute chose a theme of “less talk, more action” to spark leaders at the sub-national level to approach climate change and pollution with urgency.

“It’s time for all of our doubters and producers of pollution to join us and move forward together,” Schwarzenegger said. “We are asking you to stop lying to the people about climate change and pollution, and to offer them solutions instead of bullshit.”

Held May 28 at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, the R20 Austrian World Summit brought together 150 leaders from politics, business, civil society and academia representing 30 countries to provide examples of best practices and innovative projects for climate protection.

Schwarzenegger co-founded R20 as a global nonprofit of sub-national governments and regional leaders working together to move toward a green energy future. In 2017, he partnered with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and environmental activist Monika Langthaler to launch the R20 Austrian World Summit.

Van der Bellen urged the 1,000 people in attendance to reverse the trend of greenhouse gas emissions now.

“We know that the climate crisis is affecting global economic development, that it threatens agriculture, tourism, water and energy supply,” Van der Bellen said. “And ultimately peace, security, social cohesion and prosperity for us all.”

Keynote speeches were given by Schwarzenegger, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and climate activist Greta Thunberg.

“Climate disruption is upon us, and it is progressing faster than our efforts to address it,” Guterres said. “We need a post-carbon economy, a climate-smart development pathway that can provide inclusive prosperity for all on a healthy planet. I know we can do this, provided we have the political will.”

Earlier this year, the 16-year-old Thunberg sparked an international school strike by students demanding action to prevent further global warming and climate change.

“We children are not leaders, nor are the scientists, but many of you people here are,” Thunberg said. “People listen to you, but most of you have failed to take this responsibility. We young people are waking up and we promise that we won’t let you get away with it anymore.”

Schwarzenegger and Thunberg also participated in a festival raising public awareness for climate protection in conjunction with the Summit. It drew 5,000 visitors.

Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Olympic gold-medal skier Aksel Lund Svindal joined with Schwarzenegger to add star power. And, California was well represented in Austria with Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, and former state legislators Kevin de Leon and Fran Pavley taking part in the summit. 

“We are asking you to see the trends and join the forward march of progress instead of trying to hold us back at every opportunity,” Schwarzenegger said. “We are asking you to prepare yourselves so that you can continue to make your profits and create jobs, not by polluting the world but in the clean economy of the future.”

(Text copyright Matthew Kredell, photos copyright Martin Hesz)