Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Florida delegation going to Copenhagen amid climate warnings

A group of 25 business and government officials is going to the United Nations climate change conference in Denmark next week to push for green jobs for Florida.

Meanwhile, a former U.S. climate negotiator told a Tallahassee audience on Tuesday that climate changes threatens the global economy and security. Florida State University scientists presented evidence that hurricanes are growing stronger and polar ice is melting as the world's climate warms.

President Barack Obama plans to attend next week's conference in Copenhagen, where a follow-up agreement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocols will be negotiated. The United States never adopted the Kyoto Protocols to restrict greenhouse gas emissions because of criticism that developing countries were not included.

An unofficial delegation that includes Enterprise Florida will be led by Kathy Baughman McLeod, a member of the Florida Climate Commission and public policy group director at the Bryant Miller Olive law firm in Tallahassee. The delegation will be meeting with renewable energy industries and delegations from other states and nations.

"Our state's economy is in a state that requires doing things differently," McLeod said. "A diverse group of 25 Floridians is taking a trip to Copenhagen next week to find out what a new economy means to Florida."

The delegation was announced in Tallahassee at Danfoss Turbocor, which produces energy-efficient refrigerant compressors. Ken Cooksey, international trade representative for Enterprise Florida, said his agency was delighted to partner with the delegation. (To see a list of the delegates, click here.)

"We are hoping for a great round of meetings during this conference," he said.

Florida's elected Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink also weighed in later, congratulating the group on targeting green jobs for the state. Sink is running as a Democrat for governor in 2010 and she touted her efforts to focus the state on renewable energy.

"I am hopeful that this strong delegation will help bring new, green jobs back to Florida as we work to harness our state's resources and make Florida an international leader in the green energy economy," she said.

On Tuesday, Frank E. Loy, who was under secretary of state for global affairs during the Clinton administration, warned that warming temperatures would threaten crops in developing nations, leading to migrations and unrest that could drag the United States into more armed conflicts. He placed the blame on dependence on oil for transportation. He spoke at FSU's "Human Rights & National Security in the 21st Century" lecture series.

The U.S. depends on a risky supply chain of foreign oil that also strengthens hostile nations such as Russia, Iran and Venezuela, Loy said. While that argument has been made by supporters of offshore oil drilling in Florida, Loy also warned that increasing the domestic supply will have a minimal effect -- though he said he didn't want to take sides in the "local issue."

"I'm certainly not hostile to it (drilling), but I will say this, it's not going to affect these numbers very much," he said. "We in the United States have about 2 percent of the world reserves of oil and supply about 10 percent of our production. So if we increase that by a good deal -- and that will take years and years -- it doesn't affect what I am talking about."

(Photo by Heidi Truitt Campbell, courtesy of Bryant Miller Olive. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)

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