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Florida’s fossil fuel reduction proposal must be enforced

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Earlier this year, more than 200 young people sent a letter to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) urging our state to set goals to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050 .

The fossil fuel-based energy system harms both public health and safety. The effects of pollution, including global warming greenhouse gases, are borne disproportionately by low-income communities, communities of color and young people.

These groups contribute very little to the causes of climate change. They lack the money to cope with or adapt to rising temperatures, more frequent and less predictable storms, and rising sea levels.

These disparities will increase if our leaders fail to address the dangers of the fossil fuel-based energy system. Florida leadership is behind in setting enforceable renewable energy goals that create opportunity and minimize harm.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried responded to the youth petition with a proposed rule that requires utilities to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The rule would require utilities to submit 10-year plans to FDACS, so the department can assess a utility’s progress in meeting goals. The FDACS would then have to report annually on the progress of public services to the Public Service Commission, the Governor and the Legislative Assembly.

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Yale University and George Mason University found that a majority of Floridians support state policies that:

  • Require utilities to generate more electricity from renewable sources
  • Demand that the state do more to address the damage caused by climate change
  • Demand that the private sector and big business take action on climate change.

Fried’s proposed rule requires utility companies and government officials to increase the use of renewable energy at an achievable and scientifically supported rate. It’s up to the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to make sure the rule is enforced and benefits everyone fairly.

We urge the PSC to set a fair standard and initiate its own regulation that ensures that:

  • At least 66% of renewable energy comes from distributed energy resources, such as rooftop solar and community solar
  • At least 25% of renewable energy generation is managed by the community, for example through public electricity or cooperative utilities
  • Residents of rural, minority, low-income and underserved neighborhoods are involved in energy development planning and evaluation
  • Generation sources are prioritized based on lowest environmental impacts

The PSC must ensure that proposed objectives, planning and transparent reporting are achieved. The Energy Board must ensure that the appropriate resources and a shared understanding are established so that the PSC can implement and enforce the rules.

Florida should leverage its renewable energy potential to protect the health and safety of Floridians. It is becoming more affordable for consumers and producers to adopt renewable energy. We can no longer allow the fossil fuel-based system to take advantage of those who have contributed the least to climate change.

Natalia Brown is Climate Justice Program Manager at Catalyst Miami and serves on the Miami Climate Alliance Steering Committee. Delaney Reynolds is the lead petitioner for the development of 100% renewable energy rules by the FDACS and a former plaintiff in the youth-led constitutional climate case, Reynolds v. Florida.

“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaboration of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by global warming.