Florida can save its climate future | Commentary

·2 min read

Florida lawmakers in the next 60 days have three big opportunities to ease impacts of climate change in our state.

Floridians know climate change is real – 94% of Floridians agree. That’s because we are already paying higher electric bills from record heat waves and skyrocketing insurance from stronger hurricanes and increased flooding. In 2021 alone we were hit with over 2,000 wildfires and red tide lingered all summer from higher ocean temperatures hurting our health and our tourism economy. Indeed, a recent report by Florida Taxwatch highlighted $175 billion in economic risk annually by 2050 from climate change in the sunshine state.

But what can state leaders do during this legislative session, to change Florida’s future?

Palm trees along Sarasota Bay sway Tuesday evening at Bird Key Park in Sarasota, Florida as winds from Hurricane Elsa steadily increase.
Palm trees along Sarasota Bay sway Tuesday evening at Bird Key Park in Sarasota, Florida as winds from Hurricane Elsa steadily increase.

First, Florida should set bold but achievable goals for electric vehicles, especially charging station deployment for medium and heavy vehicles. Lawmakers can jumpstart this transition by removing barriers to electric vehicle expansion. For example, simple tweaks to the state’s procurement practices will allow total cost of vehicle ownership to guide fleet purchasing decisions, which would save taxpayers money over time, while reducing air pollution.

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Second, legislators should solidify the Statewide Office of Resiliency under the Governor’s Office by providing this critical department with adequate resources and the requisite authority to direct resilience initiatives across Florida’s agencies, lead implementation of the state’s resilience strategy and leverage funding from the federal government and the private sector.

Dawn Shirreffs
Dawn Shirreffs

Third, lawmakers should reject any legislative proposals that would unfairly check the momentum of Florida’s burgeoning solar industry. Florida families and small businesses should be able to continue recovering their costs at the same rate as Florida’s utilities. Demand for electricity is growing rapidly our over-reliance natural gas (75%) makes energy security and affordability vulnerable to global gas price volatility, cyber-attacks and natural disaster events. We should be looking for ways to ensure Florida cities, universities and other tax-exempt organizations can make critical investment in solar to save taxpayer dollars, reduce risk and increase our resilience after a storm.

Florida lawmakers have the opportunity to lead on climate and the economy with common sense solutions. In nine short weeks, we will know if they have risen to the challenge. Let’s hope they do; our state and our families’ futures depend on it.

Dawn Shirreffs is the Florida Director of the Environmental Defense Fund. Dawn works to bring nature-based solutions to the toughest climate challenges that Florida faces.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Commentary: What Florida lawmakers must do to mitigate climate shift

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