With sea level rise already lapping at its door, the city of Miami made its first significant commitment to address the root cause of climate change, not just the symptoms.
The city government plans to go carbon neutral by 2050, a pledge that will change everything from what city employees drive to how the city builds and how it powers itself.
Miami became the first city in Florida and 96th in the world to join C40 Cities, an international climate organization that helps cities lower their carbon footprint. Mayor Francis Suarez, who signed the agreement, called it a moral imperative for the city to cut its emissions.
“If we really want to be here forever we can’t just react to what mother nature is doing,” he said. “We have to do everything in our power not to make matters worse, but to make matters better.”
Exactly how the city plans to go carbon neutral, a hefty goal for a large and car-centric community, comes later. Miami’s Climate Ready Plan will be released soon, and it tackles broad actions the city can take, like switching out gas-powered city cars for electric vehicles, installing more solar panels and enforcing energy efficiency in city buildings.
In recent years, Miami has largely chosen to address the two feet of sea level rise expected by 2060 with adaptation measures that address the effects of climate change, such as flooded streets, rising groundwater and hotter days. The force driving them — excess greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere — has not been on the agenda.
Under activist pressure, that is starting to change. Miami declared a “climate emergency,” a symbolic gesture at the city’s increased focus on the topic. Advocates have since pressed the city to commit to cutting its carbon footprint.
Susan Glickman, Florida director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, called it a significant goal for the city.
“It’s key to have local governments commit to meaningful targets to move the needle backwards on carbon emissions,” she said. “It’s key to have cities like Miami show leadership. It shows the state of Florida, that has yet to take on any targets toward carbon emissions, that it’s possible and it’s important to do to avoid the worst implication of climate change.”
Emily Gorman, chair of the Miami Climate Alliance, said her organization is more skeptical about the city’s plans. They’re waiting to see the exact steps the city plans to take.
“We are obviously very hopeful and glad to see the mayor is interested in bold climate action,” she said. “But frankly, implementation is the nature of true leadership.”
Source: The Daytona Beach News Journal