Keys host four-county climate-change summit

rmccarthy@keynoter.comOctober 15, 2011 

Monroe County plays host this year to a regional climate summit conference involving South Florida's four counties.

The annual gathering of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, creating in 2009 by Broward County officials and comprising Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, is set for Dec. 8 and 9 in Key Largo.

Broward hosted the conference in 2009 and Miami-Dade in 2010.

The summit covers numerous topics, but Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said its "biggest accomplishment" has been a peer review and coordination on a four-county estimate on sea-level rise.

A "technical working group" for the four analyzed data from sea-level-rise projections done by Florida Atlantic University, the South Florida Water Management District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Broward County.

The group was made up of Glenn Landers of the Corps, Jayantha Obeysekera and Joseph Park from the Water Management District, John Van Leer of the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and Harold Wanleff of UM's Department of Geological Science.

"For 18 months, we had scientists review the data and we came up with the 9-inch to 24-inch estimate" over 50 years, Gastesi said. "It's a big to-do because we can use that for planning purposes.

"The example I like to give is the Stock Island fire station. It's a 75- to 80-year building and if we know [sea level] could go up as much as 2 feet, we'll make the base elevation that much higher," he said.

Rhonda Haag, the county's sustainable-initiatives project coordinator, said the conference agenda isn't complete yet but that the following are among scheduled topics:

  • The effects of expected sea-level rise.

  • Panel discussions on how businesses can help prepare communities for impacts from climate change.

  • A workshop on energy financing programs for homeowners and businesses called the Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE.

    "A homeowner or business, if they want to install solar panels, instead of a bank loan, they get a loan and pay it back on their tax bill," Haag said.

    Haag also said the counties are working on an action plan that will be presented at the summit. She said it would address energy and climate change related to transportation, the environment and buildings. Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers has pushed for a toll for U.S. 1 in the Keys to help finance elevation of the road in anticipation of sea-level rise.

    The summit is scheduled to take place at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center near mile marker 102. It'll include, besides the science discussions, vendors and an eco-cruise.

    It's designed for elected officials, businesses and local governments but anyone can participate. To find out more, go to www.monroecounty-fl.gov.

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