Knott, Schwarzenegger share climate change expertise at R20 Austrian World Summit

June 25, 2018

R20 Austria
From left: Cherrie Short, associate dean, USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work; Michael Staudinge, head of the Austrian National Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics; Secretary General Dr. Jakob Calice from the Austrian Ministery of Education, Science and Research; USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott; Helmut K. Anheier, president of the Hertie School of Governance; Mebus Behrle; and Conyers Davis, global director of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute

By Matthew Kredell

USC Price School of Public Policy Dean Jack H. Knott and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently spoke at the R20 Austrian World Summit, which brought together international leaders from politics, business, civil society and academia to present solutions for tackling climate change and fostering innovative financial mechanisms at the sub-national level.

Schwarzenegger – the Governor Downey Professor of State and Global Policy at USC – cofounded R20 as a global nonprofit of sub-national governments and regional leaders working together to move toward a green energy future. He invited Knott to take part in the May summit and serve as a panelist.

Held at the Hofburg imperial palace in Vienna, the second-annual Austrian World Summit featured high-level leaders such as Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall seeking to create positive momentum ahead of this year’s UN Climate Change Conference: COP 24 in Poland.

“Climate change policy is a very important topic, not only for the world but also for the Price School,” 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.”

Schwarzenegger partnered with the USC in 2012 to launch the USC Schwarzenegger Institute, which is housed within the Price School, making energy and the environment one of the Institute’s key policy areas.

“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.”

What role can universities, nonprofits play?

Dean Knott, center, speaks, on a panel at the R20 Austrian World Summit.

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.

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.

“Nonprofits can play the catalytic, experimental role and be a leverage point for getting the private and public sectors to invest, which is critical to solving climate change,” Knott said.

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.

The summit was attended by 1,200 people and broadcast on the main Austrian television network.

“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.”