Honoring Kristin Jacobs: A Climate Champion

As a long-time Broward County Commissioner and more recently a state representative, Kristin took on complex regulatory and policy matters. She leaves a long legacy of environmental stewardship – initiating the ground-breaking Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.

Susan Glickman | April 15, 2020 | Climate Change, Energy Policy, Florida
2019 Broward Leaders Water and Climate Academy – a program that Kristin Jacobs started. Jacobs is featured 8th from the left, while SACE Florida State Director, Susan Glickman is second from the left. Source.

The State of Florida lost a truly special leader last week. Like a hurricane, State Representative Kristin Jacobs embodied the very definition of a “force of nature” –  full of energy and unstoppable, she was a person to be reckoned with who used her talents for good.

As a long-time Broward County Commissioner and more recently a state representative, Kristin took on complex regulatory and policy matters. She leaves a long legacy of environmental stewardship – initiating the ground-breaking Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.

She combined her command of facts with her perspective as a mother and grandmother arguing for the need for gender diversity, “We vote differently. We think differently. We negotiate differently.”

It’s amazing how much one person can accomplish. Floridians are better for her leadership, determination, and pragmatic political skills. “It’s about incremental progress,” said Jacobs, as she neared the term limit for her seat in the Florida House. “Then you pray there’s somebody running after you’re done who will move that ball forward.”

Moving the ball forward is how we honor Kristin Jacobs’ legacy.

First established in 2009, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact – a model of regional collaboration – brought together Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) was there in those early days as well, helping build this critical momentum for collaborative efforts on the climate mitigation and adaptation front.

Once The Compact became well established, it was of some frustration for Kristin that other areas of the state had yet to follow suit. The mutual goal – shared by Kristin Jacobs, by us here at SACE, and other advocates for a clean, safe and healthy future for Florida – was to expand upon the success of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, which has been in place for a decade, and to inform the policy debate to push for similar collaborative efforts around the state; first and foremost in the Tampa Bay area which is especially vulnerable to storm surge.

The result is the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition (TBRRC), and we are happy to report that the new compact – which held its first annual summit in January 2020 to a standing room only crowd – is focused not only on strategies to adapt to the impacts of climate change in Florida but also on carbon-reduction mitigation strategies. By building lasting relationships and commitments to address climate change on a local level, we are working to lower carbon emissions by advancing clean energy technologies including solar development, energy efficiency, and the increased use of EVs and charging infrastructure.

In October 2018, the six-member counties of the TBRPC and 23 cities officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding creating the Resiliency Coalition. These forward-thinking counties are in addition to the existing four-county Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact established in 2010.

Additionally, the East Central Florida Resilience Collaborative (ECFRC) held its own signing ceremony in October 2019 where 32 local governments formally joined a resiliency planning process. I am pleased to serve on the steering committee of the East Central Florida Collaborative and chair the Resiliency Coalition Partners of Tampa Bay’s coalition. Together these two central Florida efforts comprise more than 60 local governments!

Although it took almost 10 years, I’m proud to say that the ball finally started moving down the field. On May 1, 2018, Kristin was attending a conference in Tampa and I was privileged to enjoy a celebratory dinner with her and Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long who, as chair of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC), championed the idea of a second regional climate planning effort in the state and made state resiliency planning a legislative priority at the Florida Association of Counties. What a treat to introduce these two leaders and talk about the new resiliency coalitions taking shape.

 

Kristin was so pleased to see The Compact inspire these efforts across central Florida. SACE has a hand in every one of these coalitions, to varying degrees, and we are poised to engage strongly in situations that need our support or are ripe for progress. We sit ready to advance climate change mitigation plans like these statewide, effectively creating resiliency corridors across the state and up and down both coasts.

Jenifer Rupert, who leads the East Central Florida Regional Resilience Collaborative reiterated to me how the Southeast Compact provided inspiration for their effort. She remarked how kind and supportive Kristin was as their plans jelled. She was always there for others.

Today, more than half of the state’s counties, including many of the most populous and politically important ones, are working towards resilience. And more serious conversations about climate are underway in state government for the first time in Florida in over a decade. Here we are – discussing ‘resiliency’ measures to slow dramatic climate impacts – in the very same state where our previous governor banned the words ‘climate change’ in his administration.

Challenges certainly lie ahead – so let’s look to Kristin – who wasn’t willing to take no for an answer – for motivation. Time to pick up the ball and run with it.

Rest in Peace, Kristin.

Image source: Rep. Kristin Jacobs’ Twitter
Susan Glickman
Susan has worked with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy since 2001 as a consultant and lobbyist and was named Florida Director in August 2013. Susan has a background in running…
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