The Governor of California said an international agreement at Copenhagen will usher in a new era of renewable energy and economic growth through manufacturing green technology.
Even if a deal cannot be done between nation states, he said cities and regions such as California are moving forward in transforming their industries and individual lifestyles.
And he offered to host a summit for “sub-national governments” such as California and London to make sure climate change is tackled on a regional level.
Speaking in the Danish capital, Mr Schwarzenegger said the world could take inspiration from the both the city’s “carbon conscious lifestyle” and its heritage as the home of story teller Hans Christian Andersen.
“There is a statue of the Little Mermaid in the harbour based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, but when I was a boy in Austria my favourite tale was the Ugly Duckling because it was a tale of transformation that spoke to me inside. I have always believed in personal transformation,” he said.
“The desire and hope and desperate need for planetary transformation is what brought me here. Is it a dream, a fairly tale, a false hope? If not how can we make it real?”
The self-styled “climate action hero for the globe” said a deal in Copenhagen should not only make the world “more liveable” but help poor countries who have done the least to cause climate change to fight floods and droughts. He said the conference was in danger of “talking grandly” but failing – much like another Hans Christian Anderson tale, the Emperor’s New Clothes.
But even if national governments fail to agree, he said the rest of the world must take action at a “sub-national level”.
“I believe technology and economic focus will overtake the politics and regulatory efforts of national governments,” he said. “We are beginning on a historic great transformation, a new economic foundation for the 21st Century and beyond.”
He said the states like California are already moving forward. “We in California do not wait for Washington or Beijing or Kyoto . We are moving forward and making great progress.”
The Governor said the world could continue even if the summit fails and offered to host a summit for the UN in California for “sub-national” governments to take climate change policy forward.
“The world’s governments alone cannot make the kind of progress needed on global climate change, they need everyone working. They need the cities, the states, the, the provinces and the regions. They need the corporations, the scientists, the individuals to create the determination and action for movement.”
Mr Schwarzenegger, who is originally from Austria, also joked about being back in Europe. “I love giving speeches here. I am not the only one who has an accent – this is a good place to come,” he said.
And he ended with his trademark quote from the film The Terminator “I’ll be back”.