Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gov. Crist addresses first climate change meeting

By Bruce Ritchie

Gov. Charlie Crist today told the inaugural meeting of the state Energy and Climate Commission that Florida has embarked on a "great path and challenge" in developing renewable energy and diversifying its fuel resources.

"These are challenging times," Crist said during the meeting in the Capitol. "And I am convinced that the more diversified we are in opportunities and products as it relates to energy give us an opportunity to be more competitive."

The commission held its first meeting since being created last year by the Legislature. The commission is in charge of making recommendations to the governor and Legislature, helping agencies develop energy and climate policies and programs and assessing progress on Florida's Energy and Climate Action Plan produced last year.

Earlier this week, some House members expressed skepticism about whether climate change is real, according to a Florida Times-Union report. In its session that begins in March, the Legislature will be asked to adopt California's stricter vehicle emissions standards for vehicles and approve setting a requirement for utilities to produce 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole pointed out there are 27 new House members, many of whom are new to the issue. "The benefit of educating House members about why this (climate initiative) is good for Florida will be accomplished," Sole said. And he said the governor is a strong believer in addressing climate change.

"I'm confident there will be strong support to continue to pursue what we believe is in the best interest of Florida both from an environmental standpoint, an economic standpoint, and finally even an energy security standpoint which is what all these things relate to," Sole said.

Environmental group representatives said they think the commission will play an important role.

"The complexities of energy require the deep consideration that a body like this will be able to provide," said Susan Glickman, southern region director of the Climate Group.

Commission Chairman James F. Murley, director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic, said carrying out the recommendations of the climate plan will involve several state agencies -- along with local governments. He said Dade, Sarasota and Broward are among the counties that already have taken a leadership role in responding to climate change.

"I think it is absolutely important that you recognize local governments in the state of Florida... take these issues very seriously," he said.

Copyright by Bruce Ritchie

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