Arnold Schwarzenegger's legacy as arguably the greenest chief executive in our country's history will rival Mr. Universe titles and box office championships.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Given Arnold Schwarzenegger's legendary achievements in bodybuilding and movies, expectations were high in his seven years as Governor. His legacy as arguably the greenest chief executive in our country's history will rival Mr. Universe titles and box office championships, not only because of what he accomplished, but also how he got things done.

On land, for example, he enlisted two shrewd legislators (Republican Tim Leslie and Democrat John Laird) to structure a bi-partisan compromise that created the 25 million acre Sierra Nevada Conservancy. In another example, knowing the state couldn't afford to buy coastal real estate, he crafted a less costly conservation easement to save 13,000 pristine acres of Hearst Ranch and over 200,000 acres of Tejon Ranch. All of these blockbusters had eluded the grasp of prior administrations for decades, but the promoter-businessman-statesman Governor Schwarzenegger found new ways to overcome old barriers.

The Governator used another strategy that had been lacking in Sacramento and Washington DC for many years to achieve other great green goals -- he applied sound science. Taking the inescapable conclusions of two national ocean health reports, one chaired by California's own Leon Panetta, he pushed for an Ocean Policy Act that created an Ocean Protection Commission and the tools to begin restoring our ocean habitats. These efforts culminated in thousands of acres of "ocean parks" that are now the nurseries for the recovery of hundreds of plant and animal species, many of which were on the brink of extinction.

But the state's 38th governor will probably best be known for making California a global leader in the fight to address climate change and air pollution. His landmark executive order in 2005 threw down the gauntlet of an 80% reduction of carbon pollution by 2050 -- the first such goal in the world -- and a process driven by sound science and economics that culminated in the passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. He led the charge to implement those bold goals by accelerating the state's deployment of renewable energy (20% of the state's energy from renewables by 2010 and a third by 2020); creating a Hydrogen Highway for clean transportation; establishing the world's first Low Carbon Fuels Standard; and by signing laws that help communities grow without adding to the greenhouse gas burden.

As with his land and ocean conservation campaigns, Schwarzenegger again used strategies that former governors never tried. He took on his own party, for example, fighting the Bush administration in court to implement California's strict new limits on tailpipe carbon emissions, ultimately prevailing until those standards were adopted by other states and the Obama administration. In another example, when powerful special interests blocked his Million Solar Roofs Initiative in the Legislature, he worked with the CPUC to set up the program and later get it passed into law. In both examples, he understood that everything takes leadership and adjusting to inevitable setbacks -- but never giving up.

Perhaps his greatest legacy will be the fact that all of these initiatives demonstrated that the choice of environment or economy is, as he would say, simply bogus. His accomplishments proved time and again that good environmental policy creates sustainable domestic jobs and new businesses that are fueling California's economic recovery, investment, and growth.

In "Terminator", Arnold Schwarzenegger famously utters "I'll be back." The world should hope that he'll be back to keep working on these issues with the unique style of public service that is the basis of his unprecedented green legacy.

Terry Tamminen is the President of the non-profit Seventh Generation Advisors and the former Secretary of the California EPA. His latest book is "Cracking the Carbon Code: The Key to Sustainable Profits in the New Economy."

Before You Go

Popular in the Community