Fla. Gov. Holds Climate Change Summit

The Associated Press
Thursday, July 12, 2007; 7:32 PM

MIAMI -- Florida Gov. Charlie Crist opened a two-day summit on climate change Thursday, promising the state will lower carbon dioxide emissions and make use of alternative energy sources.

At his "Serve to Preserve" summit, the Republican governor said the state, where most of the state's 18 million residents live near the coast, has much to lose should ocean levels rise and a lot to gain if it takes a lead in developing renewable energy technologies.

"Droughts, endangered agriculture, violent storms and changing sea levels _ their impact on Florida's economy are just a few of the reasons why we must take action now," Crist said. "We must search for and put in practice climate friendly strategies for our families, our communities and of course our state."

Crist is expected to be joined Friday by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, another Republican who has pushed environmental causes. Crist plans to sign executive orders to require utilities to lower carbon dioxide emissions and force state agencies to conserve energy and use biofuels when possible.

Crist is also trying to lead by personal example. His day-to-day vehicle runs on 85 percent ethanol and he's installing solar panels at the governor's mansion next week. He recently bought a new boat and made sure he chose an engine that is more fuel efficient and burns cleaner.

"I turn the lights off when I leave the room," he added. "They seem like simple, menial things, but they're not. If everybody does it, that's better."

The summit includes scientists, alternative energy experts and officials from as far away as Germany, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

Efforts by states to address climate change issues will lead to the federal government eventually doing more, predicted John Ashton, a speaker at the summit and a climate change representative from the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

"In the end, what the United States does collectively is going to be a very powerful shaping force in the global effort," Ashton said.

Crist's predecessor, Gov. Jeb Bush, was criticized by environmentalists for not doing more to promote renewable energy. Likewise, critics say his brother, President Bush, hasn't taken the issue seriously. Crist is careful not to admonish his fellow Republicans for not doing more.

"We're all on the same planet and we all need to work together," Crist said.

© 2007 The Associated Press