Clean Energy Is Cutting Carbon, But Florida Lags

Media Contacts
Jennifer Rubiello

Environment Florida Research & Policy Center

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – With South Florida “ground zero” when it comes to some of the worst impacts of global warming, from rising seas to disappearing Everglades, Congressional delegates Frankel and Murphy, along with local elected leaders, joined Environment Florida Research & Policy Center today to call for more state and national action in the fight to cut carbon pollution. Speakers gathered at Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center to release a new report, Moving America Forward, that highlight’s the impact of the Clean Cars Program and other measures that have helped Florida reduce its emissions.

“By using energy more efficiently, and by generating more power from clean, renewable sources like the sun, we are delivering a one-two punch in the fight against global warming,” said Jennifer Rubiello, field associate with Environment Florida. “We’ve proven that we have what it takes to protect our children and future generations from the worst impacts of climate change. We will need firm limits on carbon pollution in order to deliver a knockout blow.”

As Senator Nelson said last week in his climate address to the Senate, Florida is “ground zero” for climate change. Salt-water intrusion threatens the Everglades and our drinking water supply, while ocean acidification due to high levels of carbon dioxide puts our very valuable fisheries at risk, killing or drastically altering valuable undersea ecosystems like the Florida Keys. Miami and Tampa are among the world’s 10 cities most endangered by continued sea level rise. Yet still, coal- and gas-fired power plants are America’s largest source of the carbon pollution fueling global warming.

Environment Florida pointed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) plan to move forward with limits on carbon pollution from power plants as the next step to fight global warming and shift to clean energy. Right now EPA limits arsenic, lead, soot and other pollution from power plants – but not carbon pollution. Power plants are America’s largest source of the carbon pollution fueling global warming, accounting for about 40 percent of total emissions.

Key findings from the report include:

•    Renewable electricity standards have helped Florida develop enough renewable energy to offset as much carbon pollution as 180,000 cars produce in a year.

•    Energy efficiency policies have helped avoid as much carbon pollution as over 400,000 cars produce in a year.

•    The success of clean energy policies in other states has proven that investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency can cut carbon pollution, and could help Florida meet federal carbon standards.

“By missing out on strong local clean energy, Florida isn’t only missing out on the economic and public health benefits of local wind, solar, and energy efficiency,” said Lake Worth City Commissioner Christopher McVoy. “We’re also not doing our part to fight global warming that threatens Florida’s future with sea level rise.”

“Climate change is already having a serious impact throughout many of our nation’s communities,” noted Congressman Patrick Murphy. “In our area of Florida, we are seeing these changes first hand as sea levels rise and the storms we face every hurricane season become more violent and dramatic.  That is why I believe national initiatives to address carbon emissions are so important, and that policies that will reduce pollution, incentivize greater use of renewable energy sources, and encourage the development of energy-efficient technologies should be supported.  Taken together, these steps have the promise to not only reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but also stimulate investment in and development of innovative clean energy business approaches.”

 “The Pine Jog Environmental Education Center facility is one example of what can happen when systems partner with one another to create beautiful facilities that are healthier, more cost effective to operate and environmentally cleaner,” said Ray Coleman, executive director of Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center. “I wish to applaud the groups that embrace these practices, despite the lack of policy in Florida mandating renewable energy and energy efficiency. Limits on carbon from power plants will build on projects like this one and could help spur even more clean energy here in Florida.”

Rubiello pointed to opposition from power companies, the coal industry, and other big polluters as a roadblock to action. Just this session, a handful of state lawmakers in Florida introduced a bill linked to big polluters with language that would have limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act authority to limit carbon from power plants in Florida. Already, groups from the American Petroleum Institute to the National Mining Association have launched campaigns to block or undermine federal carbon limits.

“Governor Rick Scott has said he doesn’t believe in climate disruption, and he hasn’t shown support for EPA safeguards,” added Jonathan Ullman, Sierra Club South Florida Senior Representative. “That’s a huge problem for Florida.”

“Climate change is real.  Its impact on our communities is clear,” said Congresswoman Lois Frankel. “But this report proves climate solutions are available now and it shows that when we work together, we can successfully fight climate change and begin to roll back carbon emissions. With continued state and local efforts, and President Obama’s climate action plan, we can build upon these early successes and further develop a strong clean energy economy.”

“With enough willpower, Florida can rise to any challenge. We’ve seen that climate solutions work – now it’s time for the next round,” Rubiello concluded. “Our leaders can start by supporting the EPA’s plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants.”