NEW YORK -- Gov. Gavin Newsom sharply criticized President Donald Trump in front of foreign leaders Monday, using his first appearance on the international environmental stage to highlight how California is addressing climate change, in contrast to the federal government.
"I don't know what the hell happened to this country that we have a president that we do today on this issue," Newsom said to applause at the opening ceremony for Climate Week in New York. "Because it's a damn shame. It really is. I'm not a little embarrassed about it -- I'm absolutely humiliated by what's going on."
Those who are attending the United Nations Climate Action Summit and surrounding events in New York City said the proceedings would give many international leaders their first exposure to Newsom while allowing the governor to signal where he plans to take California's pioneering initiatives to address climate change. Other countries are watching closely to see how he carries a torch of activism lit by his predecessors.
"The new governor is not a known commodity," said Robert C. Orr, special adviser on climate change to the U.N. secretary-general and dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.
California is recognized as a world leader on climate policy, garnering continued interest from other nations for its work on emissions reduction, electric vehicles and renewable energy -- an agenda that former Govs. Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger championed.
Brown's shadow, in particular, looms large. A longtime climate activist, Brown quickly embraced the role of being the American antidote to Trump when the president announced the nation would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, a 2015 pact among nations worldwide to keep global warming below catastrophic levels.
On Monday, Brown launched the California-China Climate Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, a partnership with China's top climate change official, Xie Zhenhua, and the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University.
Newsom praised the former governor in comments to fellow dignitaries and said he intends to continue the state's tradition as a climate leader.
"I'm here (in) a long line of Democrats and Republicans in the United States that come from the state of California, that get it and want to get it done," Newsom said. "I'm very proud to be a new governor, replacing now, following Gov. Jerry Brown, who demonstrably has been leading in international efforts."
But to some, Newsom needs to do much more than Brown when it comes to fossil fuels.