The Fourth National Climate Assessment that was issued this month highlights the urgent need for citizens, businesses and governments to take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the harm to the health and welfare of citizens and ecosystems.
The report specifically identifies the damage to Florida’s environmentally precious and economically valuable coral reefs from warming waters.
In Florida, regional climate compacts and local governments are providing critical leadership by demonstrating greenhouse gas emission reduction action now.
At the recent Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit, Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade County spoke to the achievements of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact during its 10-year history and identified some significant new greenhouse gas emission goals for the region.
While the Compact has focused on addressing the effects of sea-level rise, a central goal is to “reduce consumption of electricity and fuel and increase renewable energy capacity to increase regional resilience, reduce greenhouse gases, and improve disaster management and disaster recovery.”
Gimenez challenged the Compact to work with Florida Power & Light “to move our entire state from having one percent of its energy generated by solar to at least 20 percent in the not-so-distant-future.” He said local solar capacity would increase with the addition of more than 300,000 solar panels at the new Miami-Dade Solar Energy Center.
The mayor proposed doubling electric vehicle charging stations in the four Compact counties, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe. Compact local governments are already aggressively reducing the carbon footprint of their vehicle and bus fleets.
Miami-Dade recently adopted a resolution to reduce the county’s gasoline consumption by 30 percent and diesel use by 70 percent by 2028. By 2035, at least 50 percent of the county’s buses must be electric. Similarly, Broward intends to electrify its transit buses and fleet vehicles by 2030.
Where does Florida more broadly stand on meeting the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions? In Florida, renewable energy deployment has significantly increased over the last two years due, in part, to legislation creating a tangible personal property tax exemption for renewable energy equipment. From September 2017 to September 2018, Florida moved from a national ranking of 12th in solar deployment to eighth. We must continue this growth.
In Southeast Florida, 12 solar co-ops have been created, giving residents a more convenient and affordable method of installing residential solar. Miami-Dade is streamlining its solar permitting regulations to encourage residential use. All four of the Compact counties are operating Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs to assist homeowners in financing renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements.
While the Compact’s counties have made significant progress, the hard work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires increased commitment to renewable energy and electric cars and buses, transportation planning that encourages mass transit, and state policies that remove barriers to local government use of renewable energy.
Local governments are on the front lines of climate preparedness and it is more important than ever to support climate action on the heels of the Fourth National Climate Assessment.
Florida should initiate development of a statewide climate action plan that increases the use of renewable energy sources and electric vehicles and transit, and actions to adapt to sea-level rise, increased flood risk and extreme heat. The plan should consider the regional climate efforts of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, the recently announced Tampa Bay Resiliency Coalition and growing local and regional efforts.
The threat of climate change requires the attention of state and national policymakers who can provide local government leaders with the policy and financial support to reduce carbon emissions.
The leadership provided by Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties through the regional Compact is a model of bipartisan, pragmatic regional action that state and national policymakers can follow.
Temperince Morgan is the Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida. The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.
“The Invading Sea” is a collaboration of four South Florida media organizations — the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media.