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Schwarzenegger flexes environmental muscles in Paris

Reed Saxon, AFP | Archival photo shows film star and former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles in 2010

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s icy stare is greeting visitors to the iconic Champs Elysées boulevard in the French capital this week, inspiring – or perhaps intimidating – them into taking climate change seriously.

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The former California governor and movie star, better known for terminating fictional villains than carbon emissions, will open the first World Summit of Regions for Climate in Paris on October 10 and 11.

The event is meant to showcase environmentally friendly initiatives at the local level, and thus encourage local governments and businesses to take the lead in fighting global warming.

The summit also effectively kickstarts the Road to Paris 2015, a series of meetings and actions meant to support the larger UN negotiations, or COP 21, in December 2015.

“We can all hope for a global deal next year, but we don’t even know if world leaders will agree on something,” the Road to Paris 2015 spokesman Michael Mathres told FRANCE 24. “But we can also take action together now.”

According to Mathres, many important decisions can be adopted at the UN level, but most energy, infrastructure and transport projects with profound impacts on the environment are decided by city and regional governments.

“By joining forces at the local level, we can accelerate the process of moving towards a low-carbon economy,” Mathres said. “From their own experience, many local governments realize they can move much more quickly on this issue.”

Hero of the environment

The World Summit of Regions for Climate in Paris next week is being organised by the R20 Regions of Climate, a group founded by Schwarzenegger in 2010.

The event will culminate with the signing of the so-called Paris Declaration, which Schwarzenegger will personally deliver to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

The declaration will define certain commitments by private sector actors and sub-national governments, and appeal to world leaders to reach a global deal to limit global warming at the COP 21 negotiations.

Known for his explosive Hollywood roles, Schwarzenegger also made a name for himself by spearheading environmental initiatives as the governor of California between 2003 and 2010.

In 2006 he signed into law a sweeping global warming initiative that imposes the first cap on greenhouse gas emissions in his state.

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