Anyone interested in a riveting behind-the-scenes look at how ground-breaking policy comes about ought to look at yesterday's St. Petersburg Times, where staff writer David Adams delves into the background and implications surrounding Governor Charlie Crist's executive orders adopting California's emissions standards. In examining efforts by officials in California and Great Britain, the piece notes the importance of discussions between Governor Schwarzenegger and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who came to the shared conclusion that California acting alone would not have a proper impact and immediately began encouraging Florida and other states.
More importantly, Adams brings to light the key motivational and strategic factor of how Florida's action might reverberate beyond its own climate-change-endangered shores:
"I see Florida as having an especially important role," [Climate Group U.S. Director Chris] Walker said. "Florida has the growth pattern of a developing country," he added, noting its population growth of 23.5 percent over the last decade. "Places like China and India can identify with that.
"The question is how do you decouple carbon emissions from economic growth," Walker said. "If Florida gets it right, it's the ultimate exemplar of where China, India and the United States could meet and agree."
"As they China and India look at the map and see more and more states moving, I think they will get the impression that there is a sense of inevitability to it," said John Ashton, special representative on climate change for the British foreign ministry.
While numerous other factors obviously will inform the actions of rising powers like China and India, Walker and Ashton make a critical point. American states' status as "laboratories of democracy" has long served to push the nation as a whole forward, and the growing movement to combat global warming is no exception. The idea that in dealing with truly global challenges such as this one, local leaders can serve the same purpose on a broader scale (and strengthen our international standing in the process), is all the more reason to maintain the kind of robust federalist system that these leaders have utilized.