While all of us feel the squeeze on our electric bills and at the pump as fossil fuel costs rise lawmakers passed a $112 billion budget, the largest in state history. So how did Florida’s families and businesses who are concerned about damage from climate impacts from the Florida Legislature fare over the 60-day legislative session? It’s a mixed bag of results.
Good news first.
Florida lawmakers strengthened the statewide Office of Resilience within the Executive Office of the Governor to ensure the new office was empowered to coordinate flood resilience and mitigation efforts across the state, created at least $100 million in annual funding and required the Department of Transportation to design for rising sea levels. These are important steps as we battle surging insurance costs that are pricing Floridians out of their homes.
Unfortunately, instead of embracing the sunshine, the legislature passed anti-solar “net metering” legislation that creates new barriers for homeowners and businesses who seek to invest in solar and claim their energy independence. Across the globe, we are facing the truth that energy prices based on fossil fuels are volatile and often out of our control. As long as we stay reliant on importing natural gas to power our state, Florida’s economy remains vulnerable to unpredictable events.
Today, more than $5 billion leaves our state annually to pay for gas imports to support electrical generation. What if that money was invested in creating jobs and clean energy in the Sunshine State? We must strengthen our energy independence by advancing solar generation and adopting robust energy efficiency goals.
Simply put, Florida is not moving rapidly enough to change the trajectory of climate change impact. Our costs and risks are growing. Florida TaxWatch outlined that the Sunshine State could face $175 billion in annual climate change risk by the year 2050 across key economic sectors including finance, construction, hospitality, and agriculture. Yet several key bills to address our risks were indefinitely postponed.
Legislators who want to protect the state’s economy and champion energy independence must take bold action on common-sense solutions like improving energy efficiency, transitioning to clean energy sources, and saving taxpayer money by investing in electric vehicle fleets across our state.
The question is when will Florida lead on climate change?
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.