Dawn Shirreffs: Florida takes strides on climate change, but more can be done
These are important first steps, but they are only first steps.
In recent months, Florida began taking important strides to face climate change.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a new Resiliency Florida program in January that he said would “tackle the challenges posed by flooding, intensifying storm events and sea level rise.” In addition, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls proclaimed that “Florida remains particularly vulnerable to the risk of flooding caused by sea level rise” and successfully guided an important resiliency bill through the legislature.
As Florida director of the Environmental Defense Fund, I welcome these words and actions, as do the 94% of Floridians who agree that climate change is real.
However, I also recognize that much more needs to be done. Substantive policy changes at local, state and regional levels are needed to protect Florida’s families, economy and environment.
Action in Tallahassee
During Florida’s 60-day Legislative Session, policymakers took important steps to safeguard Florida from lost property tax revenue from flooding linked to sea level rise — revenue that is sorely needed to fund schools, police departments and other services. Senate Bill 1954 requires Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection to complete a comprehensive statewide flood vulnerability and sea level rise assessment and to develop an annual Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan for submission to the Governor and Legislature.
DeSantis’ “Resilient Florida” program will set aside $1 billion in revenues from the state documentary stamp tax over the next four years to finance bonds for projects addressing the consequences of climate change. These will have statewide benefits but especially in Florida’s west coast, where chronic flooding is occurring more than 26 times per year.
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