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Fla. enters warming deals
At a climate change summit, Gov. Crist makes deals with the United Kingdom and Germany.
By ASJYLYN LODER and CRAIG PITTMAN
Published July 13, 2007
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist listens to a question from the media during a news conference at the ServetoPreserve, A Florida Summit on Global Climate Change about the need to change our ways to stop global warming.
» Fast Facts
Cap-and-trade: A system that sets a limit on carbon emissions, and allows businesses to trade them.
Carbon caps: Crist plans to cap statewide emissions to 2000 levels by 2017, making deeper cuts as time goes on. As the cap drops, there will be fewer and fewer carbon credits.
Carbon credits: The amount that businesses are allowed to pollute, measured in metric tons of carbon. Some trading systems allowed governments to give away credits; other systems are looking into auctioning the credits.
Carbon trading: As caps go into effect, carbon credits become scarce. Businesses that cut emissions stand to make money selling credits to businesses that didn't. Investors who bought credits can also sell them back to big polluters that ran short of carbon credits.
European Union Emissions Trading Scheme: National governments throughout Europe calculated how much carbon their industries emitted, then gave away credits. A two-year trial phase will run through the end of 2007.
Greenhouse gases: Gases that accumulate in the atmosphere and trap the sun's heat, causing global warming. Carbon dioxide is the best-known.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: A 10-state, regional cap-and-trade agreement in the Northeast that plans to begin trading in 2009. Some states are considering auctioning their credits instead of giving them away.
Western Regional Climate Action Initiative: A regional program that includes California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Utah and British Columbia.
MIAMI - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist intends to sign an agreement today with the governments of the United Kingdom and Germany to work together on combating global warming.
Crist said Thursday that details were worked out with officials from the two countries during the ongoing climate change summit in Miami.
"This decision means change - something is going to change on climate and global warming," said Matthias Machnig, Germany's state secretary for the environment.
The agreements are similar to one signed a year ago by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain pledging to work toward an international system of carbon trading to reduce the emissions believed to cause climate change. The California governor said states had to forge their own global warming agreements because the White House and Congress had been dragging their feet.
"California will not wait for our federal government to take strong action on global warming," Schwarzenegger said then. Florida would be the first state to follow California's lead.
British officials took pains Thursday to point out that they weren't trying to go behind the White House's back in signing pacts with various states.
"We're not trying to go above the U.S. government by any means," said Annette Hugues, spokeswoman for the British Consulate in Miami. "It's just a partnership."
In addition to hosting the two-day summit in Miami, Crist is slated to sign executive orders that mandate sweeping changes in Florida's energy policy, including cutting greenhouse gas emissions from utilities, imposing strict mileage requirements on cars and revamping the building code to require greater energy efficiency.
Terry Tamminen, who served as Schwarzenegger's environmental chief and convinced Crist of the urgent need for action by Florida, hopes Florida's actions will persuade other states in the Southeast to take similar steps so Florida could anchor a regional trading system.
"There is no question the world is looking to the larger states like California and Florida to take the lead," Tamminen said.
The California agreement, signed after a roundtable mediated by Steve Howard of the Climate Group, committed California and the United Kingdom to share ideas for "market-based mechanisms" to battle global warming, including joining forces in trading carbon credits and coordinating research on new technology.
Earlier this year, European Union officials met with California officials about how to link their so-called cap-and-trade agreements. Such pacts cap the amount businesses are allowed to pollute, but allow them to buy or trade for credits allowing greater emissions. While California is likely years from a working trading program, the EU's two-year trial has been under way since 2005.
"We are trying to make their trading scheme harmonized in order to have them linked in the future," European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in January.
"We are very open to talking to anyone who wants to be part of the fight against global warming," said John Ashton, the special representative for climate change from the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He noted that "quite a lot of the big things that happen in America seem to be things that are driven by state action."
Christopher Walker, U.S. director of the Climate Group, said, "I think it's important because the UK as well as the EU already have an international trading program. So there's a lot to be learned from them."
Florida is growing faster, perhaps, than anywhere else, Walker said. If Florida can cut emissions while growing rapidly, it will become a beacon for the rest of the world, particularly China and India.
"It could really be the shining light for others," Walker said.
Theodore Roosevelt IV, managing director of Lehman Brothers, a global finance firm, said, "I think this is a first step. Ultimately, you will see a global carbon market."
Crist's summit has drawn more than 600 participants, including scientists, alternative energy experts and government officials from as far away as Brazil and Germany, and more than 200 journalists.
There also are officials from throughout the state, including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who chairs the Century Commission. Crist credits the commission's recent report, recommending the state take steps to deal with climate change, as one of the events that convinced him to propose sweeping changes.
During a news conference at the start of Thursday's summit, a reporter asked Crist if anyone from the Bush administration was attending it, and if not why not.
"I don't know," Crist said, chuckling. "And I'm not sure why not. But we're here."
Asjylyn Loder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 225-3117. Craig Pittman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8530. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.