Florida Governor Caps Climate Summit With Cleaner Energy Policy

MIAMI, Florida, July 13, 2007 (ENS) - Unless Florida acts now to avert climate change, the state and its economy will suffer ever more severe drought, destructive fires, endangered agriculture, violent storms, and rising sea levels, warned Governor Charlie Crist Thursday addressing participants at the Serve to Preserve Florida Summit on Global Climate Change.

Today, Governor Crist, a Republican, concluded the summit by signing three executive orders directing cuts in Florida's greenhouse gas emissions and increases in energy efficiency. Under the new policy, Florida will pursue renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, as well as alternative energy such as ethanol and hydrogen.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist signs three executive orders setting Florida on the path towards renewables and energy efficiency. (Photo courtesy Office of the California Governor)
The governor also signed partnership agreements with Germany and the United Kingdom to discuss and promote initiatives that broaden the Kyoto Protocol and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases beyond 2012 when the protocol expires.

Germany's State Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservancy and Nuclear Safety Matthias Machnig signed on behalf of his government.

The UK's Special Representative for Climate Change within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Dr. John Ashton signed the agreement for his government.

"Germany and the United Kingdom are recognized as worldwide leaders in actively addressing global climate change," said Governor Crist. "Florida is honored to join these great nations in calling for a post-Kyoto Protocol that protects the planet's climate systems by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases beyond 2012."

The state will exchange delegations with Germany and with the UK to share public policy experiences and exchange science and technology concerning energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

At home, Florida is "taking immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said the governor.

First, state agencies will measure greenhouse gas emissions and develop a Governmental Carbon Scorecard. Then, the state government will work to reduce emissions 10 percent by 2012, 25 percent by 2017, and 40 percent by 2025.

To achieve that goal, new state buildings will be energy efficient and include solar panels whenever possible. Office space leased in the future must be in energy efficient buildings.

Any purchased state vehicles must be fuel efficient and use ethanol and biodiesel fuels when available. State government will also seek an energy efficient rental car company for the 2009 contract.

For electric utilities, Governor Crist directed the adoption of maximum emission levels of greenhouse gases.

The standard will require a reduction of emissions to 2000 levels by 2017, to 1990 levels by 2025, and by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Damage done by Hurricane Charley on Interstate 75 near Punta Gorda, Florida. August 2004. (Photo courtesy USGS)
Florida will adopt the California motor vehicle emission standards, pending approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, waiver. The standard is a 22 percent reduction in vehicle emissions by 2012 and a 30 percent reduction by 2016.

Florida will require consumer appliances to increase energy efficiency by 15 percent over current standards.

The governor also requested that the Public Service Commission adopt a 20 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2020, with a strong focus on solar and wind energy.

The summit brought together policy makers, academics, scientists, environmentalists and the business community to discuss the impact of climate change in Florida.

Robert Kennedy Jr., Theodore Roosevelt IV, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, and Earthjustice Executive Director Buck Parker, met with Governor Crist, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other policy leaders in a roundtable to discuss future legislation and agency standards for Florida.

Parker said, "Earlier this summer, Earthjustice played a pivotal role in stopping the nation's largest coal-fired power plant from being built right here in Florida. The state Public Service Commission denied a request for approval by Florida Power and Light, effectively ending the company's hope to deepen Florida's dependence on dirty fossil fuels."

The utility planned a large new coal-fired power plant in Glades County, between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. The commission 's denial was based on evidence presented by environmentalists concerning global warming, the lack of conservation measures that could reduce electricity consumption, and the impact on consumers of future taxes on carbon emissions.

"This victory sent a strong message to Wall Street investors that financing new coal plants is a risky investment," Parker said.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger addresses summit delegates as Florida Governor Charlie Crist looks on. (Photo courtesy Office of the California Governor.)
In his keynote address to the delegates, Governor Schwarzenegger pointed out the similarities between the two states. "California and Florida are great partners in the fight against climate change. I am very proud to see another governor wanting to join California and the growing number of states who are not waiting for Washington to lead on this issue," said Governor Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

"I know Governor Crist intends to roll back greenhouse gas emissions just as we are doing in California," said Schwarzenegger. "And he will build great momentum with his neighboring states just as we have done in California with great partnerships between us and states in the Northeast and West and with provinces in Canada and with Great Britain."

"Today's action by Governor Crist helps California tremendously as we send a strong message to the federal government to approve our auto emissions waiver," he said.

The EPA has been dragging its heels on approval of the required waiver. Last month, Governor Schwarzenegger notified the federal agency that, if they do not act on California's waiver request, the state will file a lawsuit to force action.

To offset the energy used for the summit, the state of Florida has worked with the non-profit CarbonFund.org to estimate the carbon emissions created by summit participants through their use of transportation, and operations and food preparation at the Intercontinental Miami Hotel.

The state of Florida's financial support of renewable wind energy in New Mexico will counterbalance the carbon emissions generated by the summit.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.