We know the world is changing — carbon markets, green building, green jobs, smart grids, energy technology, biofuels, carbon capture and storage. There is a new vocabulary. Can all of this add up to a true transition to a low-carbon economy for the nation and for Florida?
Politicians from around the world are gathering in Copenhagen to determine how nations of all sizes and economies can come to an agreement on climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and technology transfers and adaptation funds for developing countries.
But the world gathers at the U.N. Conference on Climate Change for another reason — to do business and make deals on renewable energy, low-carbon business concepts and innovative investments.
Two dozen Floridians — at their own expense — will make the trip with a mission to bring home ideas, business prospects, technology, relationships and financing and, most importantly, jobs.
The leaders in clean technology development include:
• Dr. Zoa Hough of Maguire Algae Systems, an emerging NASA-based technology that creates biofuel from sewage. Algae Systems is planning a pilot phase near the Port of Tampa with a need for 50 new employees;
• Olaf Roed from Green Circle Bio Energy in North Florida, with the world's largest wood pellet plant, which supplies power generators for co-firing in coal-fired power plants and reduces carbon emissions; and
• George Longo, head of renewable investments for Raymond James, one of the largest financial services firms in the United States.
They will be able ambassadors for the Sunshine State.
With the help of Enterprise Florida's international team, these business leaders will participate in the 15th Conference of the Parties under the United Nations' Climate Change Convention — better known as COP 15 — as part of the Ceres delegation. Ceres is a national nonprofit whose mission it is to integrate sustainability into financial markets (www.ceres.org).
The delegates will meet with trade partners and foreign businesses interested in coming to Florida as well as leaders from South America on the emerging prospects for a Miami-based climate exchange. The Commerce Department and its Danish counterpart are hosting a trade fair entitled "Bright Green."
Opportunity abounds for Florida to turn our economic engine toward a more sustainable, renewable economy. The outcome, however, depends on state and federal policy incentives and market establishment. Comprehensive clean energy and climate protection legislation would create certainty in the market and create incentives that stimulate economic growth through large-scale investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.
According to a new economic report, federal climate legislation could create as many as 78,000 jobs in Florida alone. It would also increase the state's real gross domestic product by from $2.3 billion to $4.8 billion.
Moving to clean energy sources will unleash a wave of more efficient technologies and drive innovation and new industry formation. The cost savings driven by climate legislation will boost our bottom line. The reason is simple: Energy efficiency reduces import dependence and the costs for transportation, heating, electricity, and so on, saving households and businesses money that they can spend on domestic goods and services, creating jobs for Americans.
Over the last 30 years, California reduced its per capita electricity consumption to 40 percent below the national average. This saved households $56 billion, and those savings created 1.5 million jobs in California with $45 billion in additional wages and salaries.
By reducing our dependence on imported energy, we can commit more of our resources to domestic job creation and reduce our vulnerability to volatile oil prices, climate damage and other threats to our national security.
There is a vast array of reasons for Florida to position itself in the forefront of the low-carbon economy. Since December is a time for holiday gifts, at the top of the wish list for this delegation are green jobs for Florida.
Kathy Baughman McLeod is a Tallahassee lawyer and chairs the Green Jobs for Florida Delegation to Copenhagen. She is a member of the Florida Energy and Climate Commission and a national board member of the Clean Energy States Alliance.