After a tense and anxious election day, which stretched into more of an election week, we finally have the results of the 2020 general election. This year’s election yielded mixed results for clean energy advocates in the state of Florida.
At the federal level, voters across the country turned out in record numbers to oust the science denying and anti-environment Trump administration in favor of President-Elect Joe Biden, who has committed to a policy of phasing out fossil fuels in order to tackle the impending climate crisis.
Unfortunately, this year’s election shifted the balance in the legislature even further away from the proponents of climate action. While the losses in the Florida State House will prove a major setback to climate champions seeking victories at the state level, the addition of new legislators such as Senator-Elect Loranne Ausley. Ausley is an innovative, forward-thinking leader and advocate for carbon reduction and carbon sequestration. A newly elected Representative, Omari Hardy, went viral earlier this year after taking a stand to keep Florida families connected to their power in the wake of the pandemic crisis. These legislators among others are a bold new crop of leaders who keep an eye on the future.
The election results at the local level also brought in new climate champions. Most notably, voters in Miami-Dade County made history by electing the first woman Mayor, climate champion and ‘water warrior,’ Daniella Levine Cava. Cava is known for her principled approach to environmental issues like infrastructure and water quality. She founded the highly influential non-profit Catalyst Miami, which is known for its community organizing presence and focus on health and climate issues.
Here are the implications of these major developments in our political landscape:
1. The U.S. is set to rejoin the world stage as a leader in the clean-energy transition
On Wednesday, Nov. 4, the U.S. officially exited the Paris Climate Agreement, which brings together 196 countries across the globe to commit to voluntary emissions reductions programs with the aim of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. President-Elect Joe Biden has committed to rejoining the Paris Climate Accords “on day one” of his administration. Biden’s climate plan calls for a $1.7 trillion investment in clean energy infrastructure, calls for an end of fossil fuel subsidies, and would ban new oil and gas permits on public lands.
2. Unshackling our federal agencies
From day one, the Trump administration has been notorious for appointing industry lobbyists and prominent opponents of federal agencies to oversee the agencies themselves. Since 2017 the Department of Energy has been led by Rick Perry, who once vowed to eliminate the agency while running for his party’s nomination for president in 2012. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been led by oil and gas lobbyist, Scott Pruitt. While we don’t know yet who Biden will be appointing to lead these agencies, the new administration is certain to appoint agency leadership which actually supports the mission of these bodies. Being able to appeal to a responsive federal bureaucracy will prove critical to activists and organizers operating at the local level across the state.
3. Major opportunities for local action
Miami-Dade County is the state’s most populous county, home to over 3 million residents. The county operates under a strong Mayor system; the impact of electing Daniella Levine Cava cannot be overstated. Cava’s longtime support from and connection to community organizers and climate advocates will pave the way for a stronger department of resilience and the adoption of robust new goals for climate change mitigation in Miami-Dade County. Still, organizers from groups such as the Miami Climate Alliance will have their work cut out for them, but the ground is set for a real push for a commitment to 100% renewable energy in the state’s largest and most influential county.