Last week, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact hosted its annual Climate Leadership Summit, to highlight the work that is being carried out by Southeast Florida communities to get ready for the impacts of climate change, like more frequent and severe coastal flooding, and also help set the agenda for work to come. The Summit took place Oct. 1 – 2 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, featured 48 presenters representing government (from city councilman all the way up to the White House), business, academia, and a number of international representatives as well. The attendance at this year’s summit was the highest of any of the annual summits to date, completely selling out with 650 attendees. SACE was able to attend for the fourth year running (see blogs from previous years: 2011, 2012, 2013).
As we’ve reported before, the tone of climate action in Southeast Florida is very unique in the Southern US, given its bipartisan and relatively uncontroversial nature. However this tone is a matter of circumstance–it is a matter-of-fact tone because Southeast Florida lives a daily reality of climate change. It’s hard to deny the sea is rising when tidal flooding that occurs, even without any rain, completely floods the streets, as it is doing today on the day of the highest tide of the year (also known as the ‘King Tide’). Not only is it heartening to see the local community come together around this issue, but also to see how much the Compact has made an impact elsewhere.
The Compact has spawned a spinoff climate compact effort in Durban, South Africa, and has undoubtedly inspired numerous other climate planning initiatives domestically, but in spite of this, there is still a serious lack of support from Tallahassee. In fact, Tallahassee’s failure to act on climate change is so bad that South Miami has passed a resolution in support of South Florida breaking away from the political gridlock of Tallahassee by forming the 51st state of the union, with a state government that adequately addresses threats from climate change. The governments of South Florida are forging a path forward toward prosperity in a changing climate, yet are not being supported by state officials in a meaningful way. While the opportunity for leadership from Tallahassee is certainly there–for example Florida has the greatest solar resource east of the Mississippi and also has the most coastline at risk of rising seas–the question is really whether Tallahassee or Washington D.C. politicians will act as leaders or continue to stand in the way of a better future.
We thank the communities in Southeast Florida for their proactive work on preparing for a changing climate and look forward to hearing about the continued progress this time next year at the 7th annual leadership summit.