FL environmentalists applaud Biden orders to address climate change

By: - January 27, 2021 4:45 pm

Hurricane Sally made landfall near Pensacola as a Category 2 storm with sustained winds of 105 mph. Credit: National Hurricane Center

Two of Florida’s leading environmental organizations applauded President Joe Biden Wednesday for issuing executive orders to slow climate change that is fueling more frequent hurricanes, extreme heat and sea-level rise in the state.

They called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to follow suit with bold action to protect Florida.

Biden’s new orders also halt offshore drilling for oil and gas in federal waters, a bipartisan issue dear to Floridians who adopted a state Constitutional Amendment in 2018 to ban drilling in state waters (up to 10 miles from Florida shores).

“President Joe Biden is proving that he is a true conservation leader,” said Jonathan Webber, deputy director of Florida Conservation Voters, in emails to the Phoenix. “Today’s executive orders reflect what we would like to see in Florida, including strong commitments to land and water conservation, climate action, and centering Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the environmental policy conversation.”

Webber continued, “Protecting our environment requires leadership at every level of government and today, the president set a bold standard. Now, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Legislature must rise to meet the challenges here in Florida.”

In Florida, the consequences of climate change have been severe, with Hurricane Irma — which scoured swaths of Florida in 2017 — being one of the five most expensive and destructive natural disasters in recent history, according to a Kiplinger analysis in August 2020. Just last week, DeSantis authorized another $100 million in relief for Hurricane Irma victims in Florida.

Extreme heat and sea-level rise also have taken tolls in Florida, prompting at least 10 municipalities from Tallahassee to South Miami to establish their own clean-energy commitments and to spend more on infrastructure to adapt and fortify their communities.

Florida Conservation Voters, which advocates for election of conservation-minded lawmakers and adoption of conservation policies, set clean-energy legislation and conservation of sensitive land and water as its top legislative priorities for the legislative session beginning March 2.

Likewise, the Florida chapter of Sierra Club has long called for clean-energy policies, conservation of natural resources, and environmental justice to reverse a pattern of poor communities bearing the brunt of pollution. Its 2021 legislative priorities continue to all for those policies.

“Sierra Club Florida is encouraged by President Biden’s actions and orders as they are just what Florida needs,” said Deborah Foote, deputy director, in a statement for the Phoenix. “Our state leaders have failed to address the climate crisis – preferring to use taxpayer dollars to remediate the problems once they have occurred.”

“We appreciate the President’s focus on revitalizing communities disproportionately affected by environmental injustice as they have been ignored for too long. We hope that the Florida Legislature and the DeSantis administration takes advantage of the opportunities the Biden administration presents to benefit our state.”

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]