Sunday, June 04, 2017

Florida Mayors Committed to Lead on Climate Change

Thanks to St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver and other Florida mayors for their continued leadership on climate change.

Dyer, other mayors vow to maintain fight against climate change
Jeff Weiner
Orlando Sentinel

President Donald Trump won’t abide by a global accord, so state and local leaders, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, say they will take Washington’s place in the fight against climate change.

Trump’s decision Thursday to pull out of the 195-nation Paris Agreement came a week after Dyer embraced the goal of powering Orlando entirely with renewable energy by 2050, joining 60 other mayors in a nationwide clean-energy initiative.

“More and more of the major issues, whether it’s fighting crime and terrorism or whether it’s climate change, are being fought on the local level,” Dyer said. “I think mayors around the world have recognized we’re now on the front lines on many of the major issues of our day.”

Dyer joined other mayors Thursday in signing an open letter decrying Trump’s decision and pledging to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.”

As of Friday, 150 mayors had signed the letter, according to the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, which circulated the document. Thirteen Florida mayors signed, including those from St. Petersburg, Tampa, Miami Beach and Tallahassee.

At the same time, the governors of New York, Washington and California announced a coalition of states “committed to taking aggressive action on climate change,” dubbed the United States Climate Alliance.

California Gov. Jerry Brown told the Los Angeles Times his state “will do everything it can to not only stay the course, but to build more support — in other states, in other provinces, in other countries."

Florida is unlikely to join such a coalition. Gov. Rick Scott, a vocal Trump supporter and fellow Republican, defended the president’s decision on Friday.

“He’s doing exactly what he said he was going to do on the campaign: He’s focused on American jobs,” Scott told the Miami Herald. “The Paris accord clearly was not focused on American jobs. And it’s no different than we’ve done here.”

In Orlando, Dyer recently signed on to the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy Initiative, an effort coordinated by the Sierra Club encouraging mayors to commit to powering their cities entirely with renewable fuels and offering guidance in achieving that goal.

“Mayor Buddy Dyer and most mayors in the state of Florida recognize that time is running out,” said Frank Jackalone, director of Sierra Club Florida. “If Trump is going in this really bad direction, then they are going to have to go in the opposite direction.”

The transition will involve a variety of different power sources — with solar power front and center, officials said. The city also must study and likely revamp its electrical grid, said Chris Castro, Orlando’s sustainability director.

It’s unclear how much those changes will cost. But in addition to its environmental benefits, Dyer said an increased reliance on solar power could also have long-term economic benefits.

“We are not going to have any coal-mining jobs here in Orlando, ever, but we could have a substantial industry in solar power,” he said.

While Orlando’s clean-energy goals are more aggressive than most, other Central Florida governments also are working to reduce emissions and shift to solar and other power sources.

Orange County’s “Our Home for Life” plan, adopted in 2014, calls for a 25 percent increase in renewable energy production in commercial and residential buildings and a 40 percent increase in county buildings by 2040, among other goals.

Lake County doesn’t have a clean-energy program. Seminole County doesn’t have a stand-alone program, either, but the county’s planning and development manager said it has policies that encourage energy conservation.

Winter Park’s sustainable energy plan, adopted in 2015, aims for the city to get 60 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2040, said Kris Stenger, the city’s assistant building and permitting director.

“Given what’s happening at the federal level, cities more than ever really need to take charge and they have a much larger role to play when it comes to sustainability and the environment,” he said.

In explaining his decision to exit the Paris Agreement, Trump argued the climate pact would harm American workers and the economy, leading to the loss of manufacturing and energy jobs, particularly in the coal industry. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said.

But Trump’s remarks drew a rebuke from Pittsburgh’s mayor, Bill Peduto, who also signed the letter opposing the president’s decision and issued an executive order Friday promoting the city’s climate change initiatives.

“As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future,” Peduto posted on Twitter.

Dyer said he views embracing green initiatives as a way to attract young professionals who favor mass transit and solar energy to cars and coal. Cities are well-positioned to chart their own clean-energy course, he said, Trump’s decision won’t change that.

The withdrawal “puts us, as a nation, out of step with where the rest of the world is headed,” Dyer said. “That doesn’t mean that the cities can’t pick up the slack.”, 407-420-5171 or @JeffWeinerOS on Twitter

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