President Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have been reluctant to acknowledge the link between climate change and some of Florida's current environmental challenges, like King Tide flooding, stronger hurricanes and rising temperatures.
The apparent lack of concern among state and federal officials has left some South Florida communities worried about how to pay for adaptation projects. Now, a Washington D.C. think tank is collaborating with a Miami-based non-profit on fund to help.
"There’s an urgent need to respond and an urgent need to make investments," said Cathleen Kelly, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress. "The idea is that state leaders could address these challenges by creating a 'Florida Future Fund.'"
Her organization worked with the CLEO Institute, a Miami non-profit known for its "Climate 101'" community education programs, to develop a plan for the fund, the details of which were released Wednesday. Kelly said the groups are currently shopping the idea around to Florida elected officials and candidates.
The focus would be on flood protection and hardening infrastructure like roads and bridges against rising seas and hurricanes. Money could also potentially be used for green energy projects using solar panels or other low-carbon sources; upgrades to transportation systems; and tree planting to help offset carbon emissions and reduce heat exposure.
Funding would come from a mix of public and private sources, potentially including taxes, grants and utility fees. Kelly and Yoca Arditi-Rocha, co-executive director of the CLEO Institute, said they hope leaders would prioritize communities where there's the most need for additional investments in resilience. People in low-income communities could potentially apply for low- or no-interest loans.
“Climate change is already taking a toll on Florida’s economy, transportation, and energy infrastructure,” Arditi-Rocha said in a release. “In the absence of federal leadership, the Florida Future Fund would help give our state control over its own destiny.”