At session midpoint, FL lawmakers continue to ignore clean-energy bills that could slow harmful climate change

climate heat air
Getty Images

Despite recently acknowledging that climate change is real and increasingly dangerous, the Republican-controlled Legislature still is advancing virtually no legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Florida.

Those gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels such as gasoline and coal, are accumulating in the atmosphere at a rate the World Meteorological Organization says will cause a climate disaster unless emissions are slashed radically and soon.

With sea level and heat steadily rising in Florida due to climate change, only two clean-energy measures have gotten any attention in Florida’s 2020 legislative session. Neither would convert the state to clean, renewable energy.

One of the bills would create a master plan for installing electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations on state highways. The other would allow public schools to use rooftop solar arrays to power their buildings

Seemingly going nowhere are proposals to convert state operations to 100 percent clean energy, create a state health report on climate-induced health problems, grant tax credits for carbon farming to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, and require improved energy efficiency in state facilities and fleets.

“But for bills to create a master plan for EV charging infrastructure, there isn’t any legislation moving that would directly reduce greenhouse gases,” said Susan Glickman, Florida director at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which promotes EV usage through its Electrify the South initiative.

Still advancing is a bill sponsored by Rep. Dan Daley, a Broward County Democrat, that would require a master plan to be completed by this July, recommending where to add infrastructure to state highways to promote use of electric, non-polluting vehicles.

Convenient access to charging stations is key to promoting more widespread use of electric vehicles, now that EVs and their batteries are becoming more affordable.

A bill by Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Pinellas County Republican, to go ahead and dedicate $5 million to EV conversion by issuing grants to local governments to put in EV-chargers has not moved.

Also still alive is Pinellas Democratic Rep. Jennifer Necole Webb’s solar-schools bill to rewrite construction regulations so that solar contractors could install rooftop solar systems. Palm Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman’s similar bill in the Senate is idle.

Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, is sponsoring a resolution requiring the Legislature to acknowledge once and for all that climate change will cause economic and environmental damage in Florida and to recognize the need to fortify the state against those damages. A clean-energy proponent, Stewart said she wants lawmakers to reduce greenhouse gases, but her resolution does not mandate any action.

Related legislation, sponsored by Sen. Bill Montford and Rep. Loranne Ausley, both north Florida Democrats, would assign an environmental dollar value to farmland and timberland for their contributions to clean air and clean water and provide incentives to farmers to maintain those contributions.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by eight children and young adults accuses Gov. Ron DeSantis and other current and former state leaders of failing to protect them from climate change.

“Reynolds v. State of Florida” demands the state adopt a clean-energy policy that would allow them to grow up in a healthy climate. The lawsuit is pending in 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Tallahassee.