Washington, DC - In a groundbreaking move for local government, the Monroe Board of County Commissioners -- the representative body of the Florida Keys -- passed a resolution today acknowledging the likely impact of global warming on their world famous reefs and beaches. In this resolution the Keys agree to work with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to meet their common goal to reduce the threat of climate change to their communities. AOSIS is a coalition of 42 small island states, from all regions of the world, which share common objectives on environmental and sustainable development matters.
"Global warming is an important issue here in the Keys. Our environment, property, lives and future are all in jeopardy if we do not act," said George Neugent, Monroe County Commissioner (District 2) of Big Pine Key, Florida. The Board recently addressed global warming in its monthly meeting this morning.
The World Wildlife Fund, an international environmental organization, has been working in Florida to highlight the state's unique vulnerability to climate change. Florida stands to be one of the most impacted states in America from global warming due to its vulnerability to sea level rise and increased storm frequency. The Keys' beautiful coral reefs are especially likely to be impacted by rising sea temperatures that -- when abnormally high over long periods of time - can cause high coral mortality and bleaching.
"Florida is at ground zero under a global warming scenario," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the World Wildlife Fund's Climate Change Campaign. "This is a bottom-up plea from America's most vulnerable community for a top-down solution. We must, as a nation, reduce the global warming pollution that puts places like the Keys and small islands at risk."
Chairman of AOSIS, Ambassador Neroni Slade noted that "As small islands, we are at the mercy of the environment and its changing climate. We welcome the world's communities to join in our fight for international efforts to stem global warming."
In a pioneering move for local government, the Monroe County Resolution announces that a Keys delegate will attend the UN "Climate Summit" in November in The Hague, Netherlands to add a local voice to the international climate change debate. As the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Samoa to the United Nations and to the United States, Slade plays a major role in the international negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 treaty through which industrialized countries agreed to meet binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Decisions to be taken by the world's environment ministers when they meet for the "climate summit" in The Hague will decide whether the Kyoto Protocol evolves into an effective first step in combating climate change, or whether loopholes in the agreement allow emissions of global warming gases to continue increasing.
"There is much to be lost in a warmer world, for members of AOSIS as no doubt for other low lying and vulnerable areas like the Florida Keys," said Slade, referring to the sea level rise, beach erosion, loss of habitat and species, reef damage, loss of tourism income, and increased frequency of hurricanes associated with the warming climate.
"The Monroe County Resolution is a big step forward for communities around the U.S. that will see first hand the impacts of climate change -- impacts that Washington appears to be overlooking," added Morgan. Neugent's view of the vote remains straightforward: "This resolution acknowledges that global warming has the potential to seriously damage the Keys. We look forward to working with AOSIS to help curtail this problem."
Kara Saul Rinaldi, Communications Officer,
(t) 202/ 822-3477, (c) 202/257-9959
Ezra Millstein, Florida Policy Officer,
(t) 954/ 921-7599, (c) 954/ 632-8753