Volume 4 Number 52
December 28, 2007

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Kathy Baughman 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 kathy.baughmanmcleod@MyFloridaCFO.com.

 

 

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 Protocol.
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 with applause.

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 world.

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 climate change.

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.