McLeod is Deputy Chief of Staff to Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex
Sink. She directs the CFO’s policy and external affairs, and is the lead
staff on the CFO’s climate initiatives. She lives in Tallahassee and can
be reached at
FLORIDA TO BALI – SO FAR, OH SO CLOSE|
by Kathy Baughman McLeod
The man sitting next to me was wearing a full length white robe, white
turban, white ornate scarf and was barefoot -- and talking on a cell phone.
I was sitting in the audience of the opening session of the Conference of
the Parties, the 13th meeting of the nations that negotiated the Kyoto
With 12,000 other residents of the planet, I journeyed to the UN Framework
Conference on Climate Change in steamy Bali, Indonesia last week to
represent my boss, Alex Sink, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.
I was invited to attend and speak at the conference by a London-based
non-profit organization call the Climate Group. They have offices all over
the world and in Florida in the Tampa Bay area. Many non-governmental
organizations like the Climate Group are given “observer status” to the
conference and can host their own delegates, like me.
I was a delegation of one representing Florida, while California (30
strong), New York and New Jersey all had representatives there. Mayor
Bloomberg of New York City and the Deputy Mayor of London came and shared
strategies. Also attending were Canadian Provinces, Australian states, Sao
Paulo, Brazil, Westphalia, Germany and the Basque region of Spain. All of
these regions and states represented have climate initiatives that focus on
the reduction of greenhouse gases. With such a focus on the US federal
government’s inaction, I was proud to represent Florida and to stand with
other states to show our commitment.
I came in part to tout Florida’s progress and Governor Crist’s great strides
in the battle against climate change in a few short months – the energy and
climate action team, our comprehensive GHG reduction strategy through the
Governor’s executive orders, and more. I was also there to share CFO Sink’s
initiatives on the financial aspects of climate change from an investment
and risk management perspective.
The conference started off with a bang. After one week in office,
Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, signed the Kyoto
Protocol. Voters ousted the prior government for one with a serious
commitment to address climate change. It was a dramatic moment when Rudd
handed Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the UN, the signed document in
front of a packed auditorium.
With Australia’s actions, the United States was further isolated. The leader
of Papua New Guinea’s Delegation said in a tense moment as the US
negotiators declined to agree, “We ask for your leadership, we seek your
leadership, but if for some reason you're not willing to lead, leave it to
the rest of us. Please, get out of the way.” The crowd of delegates exploded
The US, China and India got much attention throughout the proceedings. One
point of contention is that developing countries are reluctant to agree to
cut emissions when large economies of the world, namely the US, are
unwilling to do the same and already have a much better advantage in the
An overarching theme was that large, wealthy nations that continue to emit
high levels of CO2 do so at the immediate peril of small island countries
like Palau, the Maldives, Micronesia, Guam, and many others. Ravedni
Puchauri, the lead scientist of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC), using maps and simple charts, showed the results of the
panel’s third report. It was clear that we are out of time.
At the conclusion of the meeting – that went into overtime -- the
high-stakes negotiations reached consensus on reducing emissions (without
specific targets) for the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, and two other key
issues; 1) an “adaptation fund” that helps developing nations make changes
to the way they do business to better survive the inevitable and now-present
impacts of climate change like drought; and 2) nations agreed to the
transfer of technology from developed nations to developing nations to speed
up the process of transitioning to a low-carbon economy and to reduce
deforestation, one of the highest sources of CO2 emissions. With a new coal
plant becoming operational every week in China, transferring technology on
efficient and cost-effective clean energy is essential.
One individual made a large and lasting impression on me in Bali. His look,
with tan skin, a well-made cool, dress shirt and a chain of shells around
his neck, was that of a confident man.
I asked if he was representing his country there. “I am the President of
Palau”, he said off-handedly. He explained that his Pacific island nation’s
coral reefs are dying and that the biggest threat to Palauans’ future is
He described his vulnerable islands and reefs, with increasing damage from
extreme weather and its dependence on tourism.
In a moving speech to the conference, President Remengesau beseeched the US
and other slow-to-the-table nations to consider their own futures. “If you
cannot do this for me or for yourself, do this for our children. The
immediate future of my country is in your hands.”
Coastal, weather-weary, and tourism-dependent? Isn’t that Florida?
Reducing our carbon emissions in Florida is not just for Palau’s children,
it is truly for our own.