Governor signs Florida greenhouse gas targets

MIAMI (Reuters) - The Republican governors of California and Florida gave the Bush administration the cold shoulder on Friday as Florida set new limits on greenhouse gas emissions and signed cooperation pacts on climate change with Germany and Britain.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) speaks before Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed executive orders setting targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at a summit conference on global climate change hosted by Crist in Miami, Florida July 13, 2007. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested U.S. states may leapfrog the federal government, which under President George W. Bush has rejected the Kyoto climate change agreement, to sign accords with foreign nations.

Calling Florida Gov. Charlie Crist “another great action hero,” the star of the Terminator movies lauded Florida’s global warming initiatives, which bring the 4th most-populous U.S. state into line with nearly a dozen others in trying to impose sharp reductions on carbon dioxide emissions, auto emissions, and pollution by power companies.

“I’m very proud to see another governor join a growing number of states that are not looking to Washington for leadership any more,” Schwarzenegger said in a speech to a climate change summit in Miami where Crist signed his orders.

“State government is leading by example,” Crist said.

The Bush administration has been criticized by foreign governments and global environmentalists -- and increasingly at home -- for its failure to enact global emissions standards in the United States, the world’s biggest polluter.

With the signing of three executive orders, Florida joined a growing list of U.S. states following the lead of California to set their own strict emissions goals.

The Florida targets call for state utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2017, to 1990 levels by 2025 and by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

The state also aims to adopt California’s strict auto emissions standards, which have not been implemented because they require a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Crist said he would be willing to join California and other states in legal action to force federal approval for tougher auto emission standards.

“There’s strength in numbers,” he said.

The state is also aiming to push electric companies to produce 20 percent of their power by solar, wind and other renewable resources by 2020.

Schwarzenegger hailed the growing consensus among the U.S. states on climate change and said he had proved that “a Republican can in fact protect the environment.”

At Crist’s signing ceremony, the California governor suggested the states might go where Washington has refused to tread.

“We can sign the treaties with the European Union and the G-8 that maybe the president didn’t sign. We want to sign these treaties,” Schwarzenegger said to loud applause.

Florida’s pacts with Britain and Germany call for the partners to share energy-saving technologies, talk about possible post-Kyoto regimes and to work together on common global warming goals.

“Something is changing here in America,” said Matthias Machnig, state secretary with Germany’s environment ministry. “It’s what I would call a new consensus.”

The crowd at Crist’s summit, which drew hundreds of environmentalists, representatives of companies involved in clean technology and journalists, gave star treatment to Schwarzenegger. He didn’t let them down.

“We have to say hasta la vista, baby, to greenhouse gases,” he said in a luncheon speech.

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