Pamela Rivera, Latino Engagement Associate / Program Assistant, Washington, D.C.
Over the course of our campaign to encourage Florida Governor Rick Scott to develop a strong plan for meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) standards, I have been heartened to hear about the efforts of so many in Florida to make reducing carbon pollution and addressing climate change a central issue.
Last week, business leaders and others requested the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) provide Floridians with more time to comment on the CPP standards and what they should look like for the state. Less than 24 hours later, the PSC reversed itself and said it would give commenters more time to weigh in on the standards.
Then there’s the work of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), a collective of evangelical ministers nationwide. This week, Reverend Mitch Hescox of EEN delivered the signatures of over 60,000 Florida pro-life Christians to Governor Rick Scott at the Capitol in Tallahassee. The petition requested Governor Scott “create a plan to reduce carbon pollution and confront the impacts of a changing climate.” Reverend Hescox’s delivery also included a Spanish-language Bible signed by 50 Hispanic evangelical ministers during a Miami gathering, earlier this week, on why Christians should care about climate change.
In addition to EEN, elected officials around the state are also addressing climate change. For instance, this past Wednesday I attended a climate and energy summit convened by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Florida Senator Bill Nelson made a surprise appearance and commended Orlando for taking the steps to address climate change, he noted that Florida is ground zero for impacts and that we need to be proactive on climate action. White House Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Mike Boots asked that city officials, utilities, business owners, and private citizens all add their voices to the open comment period in support of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Finally, NRDC Executive Director Peter Lehner gave a speech touching on NRDC’s work with the city of Orlando on the City Energy project.
For his part, Mayor Dyer has been working hard to move Orlando in the right direction when it comes to energy efficiency, renewable energy and environmental protection, and it’s working. Over the past five years, Orlando has achieved more than $1 million in annual energy savings under Mayor Dyer’s leadership. The city has used these savings to help promote environmental stewardship, educate people about “environmentally conscious lifestyles” and encourage others to incorporate a concern for the environment into the everyday workings of government and private business. In addition, Mayor Dyer’s “Green Works Orlando” program has:
- Expanded the Downtown LYMMO bus circulator and completed SunRail
- Launched car-sharing with bike-sharing arriving Summer 2014
- Completed eight LEED-certified municipal buildings, including the first newly constructed LEED-certified NBA arena in the country
- Performed energy efficiency retrofits to 1,200 houses
- Planted 10,000 trees and established four community gardens
- Adopted the 2012 Municipal Operations Sustainability Plan and the 2013 Green Works Community Action Plan
Congratulations to Mayor Dyer for his efforts in Orlando, and to so many other mayors around the state (and country) who have been taking the lead to combat climate change. Now, we need action from Governor Scott, particularly given the findings of the landmark National Climate Assessment, which found that Florida is “exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, and decreased water availability” caused by climate change. Also, given that 70% of Floridians favor limiting the amount of carbon pollution power plants can emit, we look forward to the development of a strong plan for Florida.
Finally, next Tuesday, climate scientists will be meeting with Governor Scott in his office to lay out the science and to explain the urgency of dealing with climate change. Hopefully, the conversation with climate scientists will help drive home the need for effective action as soon as possible.