Environment & Science

Brown and De León talk climate change at the Vatican

Pope Francis greets the faithful as he holds Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square on April 20, 2014 in Vatican City.
Pope Francis greets the faithful as he holds Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square on April 20, 2014 in Vatican City.
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Two of California’s top elected officials are at the Vatican lobbying for international action on climate change.

Governor Jerry Brown speaks Saturday at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. But first, Democratic state Senate leader Kevin de León defended a signature climate-change program from criticism from the pope himself.

Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment and climate change in 2015. Many interpreted it as criticizing market-based programs for reducing emissions, where companies can buy and trade government credits for the right to pollute—which is California’s cap-and-trade program in a nutshell.

Accompanied by labor leaders and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, California Gov. Jerry Brown discusses proposed legislation to increase the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. on March 28, 2016.
Accompanied by labor leaders and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, California Gov. Jerry Brown discusses proposed legislation to increase the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. on March 28, 2016.
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

De León argued at the Vatican that while it doesn’t alleviate air quality problems in low-income neighborhoods, money it collects does.

“Today we’re taking billions of dollars from polluters to put solar panels on rooftops in poor neighborhoods,” he said. “We’re using that money to take dirty diesel engines off the road.”

De León and Governor Brown responded to similar criticism from their left earlier this year at home, when they extended the cap-and-trade program until 2030.

Brown will discuss his efforts to team up with state and regional governments around the world to combat climate change, as the Trump administration pulls back on pollution controls.

People gather in St. Peter's Square during Pope Francis's Angelus prayer, on October 29, 2017 in Vatican City.
People gather in St. Peter's Square during Pope Francis's Angelus prayer, on October 29, 2017 in Vatican City.
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

Brown previewed that speech at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He told the papally-appointed academics that California can share what it’s learned about how to reduce emissions.

 “Since I’m here in the pontifical building, I should quote Thomas Aquinas: Omnis bonus diffusis est.  All good tends to diffuse itself,” Brown said. “And that’s true of California.”

He later corrected the quote to ‘the good tends to diffuse itself.’

Brown will travel next to Brussels, where he’ll discuss clean energy financing with the European Parliament on Tuesday.

He will make stops in Norway and Germany, where the United Nations is holding its annual climate change conference. The UN earlier this year named Brown it’s special advisor on how states and regions can work together to combat global warming, after the governor’s efforts assembling his Under2 Coalition.