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Schwarzenegger still a man of (environmental) action

The former California governor and action film star has founded R20 Regions of Climate Action. It teams local and state governments, and other partners, to find ways to become energy efficient in economically viable ways.

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“We are the marriage brokers between government, finance, and green technologies. It’s a well-kept secret that what’s good for the environment is good for the economy,” says Terry Tamminen, strategic adviser to the founding chair of the R20.

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[Editor's note: The original version of this story misidentified Mr. Tamminen's role at R20.

For example, General Electric plans to build the largest solar-panel factory in the United States. GE is already one of the world’s primary manufacturers of wind turbines. In China, WestTech just joined R20. Its solar-thermal products are about 60 percent more effective than any other products out there, Mr. Tamminen says.

The Chinese "recognize their future is in saving energy. They know they can’t gobble up fossil fuels without choking to death,” says Tamminen, the
former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency under Schwarzenegger.

With offices in Geneva and Santa Monica, Calif., R20 also works with partners such as Sustainia, based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“Companies and organizations were frustrated with so many years of inaction – or slow action – at the political level,” says Jeffrey Hunter of Sustainia. “They agreed a new approach was needed. Sustainia is that new approach – a sustainability movement that's attractive to normal people.”

Sustainia aims to dissuade people from imitating Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” when they think about climate change. In short, it doesn't talk about melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels. Instead, Sustania wants people to realize sustainability won’t lower their living standards and is economically viable.

“A stronger 'bottom-up' movement is needed if we want sustainable societies faster than the world's governments are giving them to us,” Mr. Hunter says.

While eco-friendly and energy-efficient technology may initially cost more, prices come down as production steps up. Renewable energy and energy efficiency result in more long-term savings.

“And that’s what R20 is all about: It’s about action,” Schwarzenegger says.

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