Wednesday, April 17

CONVERSATIONS: Florida House Democrats call on DeSantis to declare climate emergency

Anna V. Eskamani

Florida House Democrats are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a climate state of emergency. 

In a letter signed by 30 representatives, the Democrats ask the governor to appoint a task force to address the issue. They also want the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

WMFE environmental reporter Amy Green talked with central Florida Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani about what the declaration would mean for Florida. 

ESKAMANI: It would finally set a standard that here in the Sunshine State we’re not ignoring the climate crisis. But we understand its urgency, and we’re taking steps to address it.

At this point, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican majority have really ignored the causes of climate change. And we’ve seen some efforts around resiliency, especially for our coastal communities.

But we haven’t seen efforts to curb our reliance on fossil fuels. We haven’t seen efforts to address the impact on marginalized communities. We’re struggling with a property insurance increase around the state. And this is also attributed to not managing the risks involved with climate change.

GREEN: What are some of the most important points this letter makes, or some of the most important things this letter is calling for?

ESKAMANI: Well for me, reducing our greenhouse gases is paramount. Despite being the Sunshine State, we are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. And at this point, Florida has not pursued renewable energy goals. We have not pursued goals around becoming carbon neutral. And we cannot afford to be a bystander in this clean energy revolution.

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So we want to see leadership in committing to a clean energy economy. We also want to make sure that scientists are leading the effort. We want a task force of scientists, environmental justice experts and local community leaders to inform the governor’s decision making, not more political pundits or former politicians. We want legitimate experts to lead this effort as science needs to be our guide.

GREEN: Your letter also coincides with Earth Day. Why did you choose to do this letter this week?

ESKAMANI: Well, Earth Day is such an important opportunity to reflect on this incredible planet that we call home, and to recommit ourselves to taking action. So we are intentional in timing this letter with Earth Day. Because we want to send a message to our governor, to my colleagues and to the entire state of Florida that as you take steps to recognize Earth Day, please remember that we are all part of this larger ecosystem that requires not just one day of action, but daily action and transformational policy change.

Everyone’s impacted by climate change. But those who are most vulnerable are going to be impacted the most. It’s going to be the communities that are our farm workers who work outside, so they’re going to feel the heat of rising temperatures. It’s going to be our climate refugees who lose everything because of extreme weather patterns. It’s going to be the low-wealth family who can’t afford gas or can’t afford power because they’re tied to fossil fuels, which are much more volatile.

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So this is not just some decades-long problem we’re trying to prevent. The problems are being felt today. So we need to take action now to support everyday Floridians for the short-term but also for the benefit of the long-term.

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