Climate change remains an urgent global issue requiring immediate attention, but South Florida stands out as an extremely vulnerable region. Due to its large human population, delicate Everglades ecosystem and proximity to the ocean, rising sea levels pose a threat to homes and infrastructure near the coast. In Oct., Miami-Dade County released their Climate Action Strategy plan containing new ways to combat climate change, ensuring a sustainable future for Miami-Dade. Despite the multiple reforms that the plan includes, Miami-Dade still falls 30% short of its goal to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2030.
The Climate Action Plan addresses three main ideas. It discusses how to make efficiency more prominent in buildings, land and transportation and water and waste. In partnership with Greenprint — an organization dedicated to making sustainability convenient for businesses to adhere to — Miami-Dade developed a roadmap to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Miami-Dade County hopes that the implementation of these reforms can help keep the global warming increase below the 1.5°C threshold.
“We’re very close to water. I know in Cutler Bay, they completely rezoned almost it all. I would say if not everything in Cutler Bay is a flood zone…so our flood insurance is going up…This is a very important issue for us because it’s going to affect our pocketbooks right away,” Miami Palmetto Senior High School Biology teacher Nicole Swanson said. “Miami specifically, if we don’t do anything about climate change, it’s gonna affect us more directly than other cities.”
According to the plan, Miami-Dade County remains the largest single consumer of electricity in Florida. 41% of the county’s emissions come from electricity and fuel used in buildings. To combat this, the plan describes ways to upgrade and re-commission existing buildings. The plan also states that the implementation of solar energy on houses and buildings can also help to lower emissions. To promote this, the county plans to offer tax incentives to private businesses who convert to solar energy.
Transportation remains a necessity for the success of suburban land development like Miami-Dade County. Regardless, the county acknowledges that reform to their infrastructure remains a necessity to cut carbon emissions. The plan calls for a shift away from single occupant vehicles while also electrifying 50% of buses and 80% of light vehicles. In regards to air and water travel, the plan hopes to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Miami International Airport by 50%, and 25% from the Port of Miami. Many of these measures are currently feasible, while other measures — like airplanes running on renewable energy — have yet to be developed.
“So if you make [transportation] electric, you’re making it so much more efficient, right? Even though we are relying on fossil fuel, it is more efficient than if you’re using normal gas energy. When we’re plugging into the electric metro rail, if we were able to fuel that with solar panels, that would be 100% clean energy,” Swanson said.
Miami Dade’s Department of Solid Waste Management and Water and Sewer Department have burned waste to produce energy, opposed to using energy efficient methods. The Climate Action Strategy lays out a plan to increase recycling, build an efficient facility with onsite solar power at waste facilities and upgrade landfills. Reducing landfill waste per person by 50% and water consumption by 30% per person remain goals that Miami-Dade hopes to obtain by 2030.
Even if the Climate Action Strategy is perfectly executed, it still falls 30% short of its 2030 goal. Miami-Dade continues to search for more ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions, especially to meet the county’s goal of emitting zero carbon emissions by 2050. Miami-Dade’s Mayor Daniella Levine Cava promises to figure out these challenges before the end of the decade.“It’s better than anything right? They’re actually trying to get something done. This is an action we’re trying to accomplish; something is better than nothing. At the moment, we just keep emitting more and more fossil fuels, getting warmer and warmer, so this is something in the right direction. This might give people more hope that it’s actually attainable,” Swanson said.