California Gov. Gavin Newsom
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Environment

Newsom abruptly cancels plans to attend U.N. climate change summit

Gov. Gavin Newsom had been preparing to go to Scotland for weeks, saying California exemplifies a state fighting global warming while still thriving economically.

Gov. Gavin Newsom abruptly canceled plans on Friday to lead a California delegation to next week’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Scotland, citing “family obligations” for the reason he is bowing out.

Newsom had been preparing for the trip to Glasgow for several weeks, saying California provides an example to the world that a state can be committed to fighting global warming while still thriving economically.

No further details were provided. Newsom had planned to attend the conference with his wife, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

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“Due to family obligations, Governor Newsom will no longer be traveling to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and will instead be participating virtually, focusing on California’s landmark climate change policies,” Newsom’s spokesperson, Erin Mellon, said in a statement Friday morning.

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis will be attending the conference in Newsom’s place, his office said.

The rest of California’s official delegation to the 26th gathering of the Conference of Parties, or COP26, will still be attending the event along with heads of state, environmental activists, business leaders and journalists.

The contingent includes Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and more than a dozen other state lawmakers. The Newsom administration also will be well represented and will include Newsom’s senior climate advisor, Lauren Sanchez, state Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Jared Blumenfeld, state Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot and California Air Resources Board Chair Liane Randolph.

The governor had planned to urge world leaders to take immediate action on climate change and stress that the time for debate about doing so is over, Sanchez said in a recent interview. She added that Californians already are grappling with the changing climate and reliance on fossil fuels, citing massive wildfires, mega-droughts and oil spills.

“We know that impacts around climate change are being felt differently around the world. California really gets to stand up and say, the crisis is here. It’s not 2050. It’s not 2100,” Sanchez said. “It is impacting the way Californians live and move and the air they breathe today.”

The governor was scheduled to lead a delegation of state lawmakers and environmental leaders to “make the case that the state needs national and international partners to join us in committing to safeguard our future,” according to an earlier statement put out by the Newsom administration.

Newsom was expected to emphasize California’s plans to phase out the sale of new gasoline-powered automobiles by 2035 and the state’s economic transition away from fossil fuels. On Tuesday, Newsom was expected to join with heads of state and representatives from major car companies to discuss the role of the growing electric vehicle market in addressing the effects of climate change.

“No other state of America comes close to our leadership in that space,” Newsom told reporters on Wednesday during a news conference in Oakland.

Long a national leader on progressive environmental issues, California is working to achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045. Last year, Newsom called to ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035.

In April, Newsom took action to ban new permits for hydraulic fracturing starting in 2024, halting the controversial oil extraction method that’s been targeted by environmental activists for years.

And just last week the Newsom administration moved toward banning new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools and healthcare facilities.

“We don’t see oil in our future,” Newsom said when making the announcement.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.