Business and environmental interests recently converged on Tallahassee to present a commonsense plan to protect Florida's future by addressing climate change and spurring a more sustainable form of economic development. Two years ago, Gov. Charlie Crist called on experts across our state to come up with their best ideas for action on global warming. For the past 14 months, the Governor's Action Team on Energy and Climate Change has developed a plan that all participants agree will cut pollution, stimulate our economy and secure our energy supply through a diverse range of sources including wind, solar and nuclear.
From power utilities and foresters to agriculture interests and environmentalists, we brought our own unique perspectives to the issue and settled on a set of concrete steps that will achieve those goals at a time when they are desperately needed. Our report puts it as succinctly as it could be: "Now is the time for strategic investment in Florida's low-carbon energy infrastructure if we are to be successful in diversifying the state's economy, creating new job opportunities and positioning Florida's 'green tech' sector as an economic engine for growth."
When you look at what our action plan would do for Florida, it's no surprise that it won broad agreement from a diverse group of interests. If implemented in full, the recommendations would result in an estimated total net cost savings of more than $28-billion from 2009 to 2025, and save more than 50-billion gallons of petroleum over the same time — all while significantly reducing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.
Importantly, we agreed that Florida can't go it alone. That's why the recommendations call for a strong national program to fight climate change — in particular, one that relies on an emissions "cap and trade" system to substantially reduce global warming pollution at the lowest cost to business and consumers while stimulating investment in new energy technologies.
While the U.S. Congress works on that system — and we hope it will pass in 2009 — we need to get going in Florida by linking up with other states that are already implementing regional plans to reduce pollution and drive investment in new energy sources. If Florida joins a regional program now — for example the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative under way in 10 Eastern states — we can influence the design and development of regional rules that will shape the national cap and trade program under debate in Congress. Joining a regional program now would also give Florida companies a strong advantage in the race to develop new energy technologies and seize the economic opportunities of a clean energy economy.
The Action Team's final report is more than just a plan to reduce pollution. It is a blueprint for economic growth, energy security and a cleaner, safer future. The current financial crisis only sharpens the need to find new ways to power our economy and create jobs. It's our belief — and one shared unanimously by the 28 members of the Action Team — that now is the time to move forward with strong federal and state policies that achieve those goals.
Gerald Karnas is Florida climate project director for Environmental Defense, and Kathleen Shanahan is former chief of staff to Gov. Jeb Bush. Both are members of Florida's Energy Action Team appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist.