What Matters In the Florida Governor’s Race: Climate Change Policy
The impacts of climate change are being felt worldwide. Florida is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels, warmer temperatures, and more intense weather systems. [Source]. Climate change cannot be ignored in the Sunshine State, and it is crucial that Floridians elect a governor who will tackle these issues appropriately. A July 2014 poll indicated that 71% of likely voters in Florida recognize climate change as a serious issue, and 60% believe the state should do more to prepare for its impacts. [Source].
Realistically, voters will choose either Charlie Crist or Rick Scott as their next governor. Each has served one term as governor of Florida, creating an opportunity for comparison, although it is important to note that Crist has undergone a significant political shift since his term.
During his 2010 election campaign, Rick Scott stated that he was “not…convinced that there’s any man-made climate change.” Now, Scott’s only comment on the topic is that he is “not a scientist.” [Source]. Contrastingly, Charlie Crist has unambiguously recognized that man-made climate change is real. In response to Scott’s statement, he said, “I’m not a scientist either, but I can use my brain, and I can talk to one.” [Source]. However, let’s not judge by their words. To really see how each candidate will handle climate change, it’s best to compare their previous actions.
Charlie Crist (2007-2010)
Governor Crist pursued both renewable energy and climate change adaption policies from the beginning of his term. He used executive orders, legislation, and political appointees to accomplish these objectives.
Executive Orders [Source]
- Leadership by Example: Immediate Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Florida State Government (EO 07-126) — Required state government to measure greenhouse gas emissions, record carbon data, and reduce emissions by 40% by 2025. This required future state buildings to be constructed to be energy efficient
- Immediate Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions within Florida (EO 07-127) — Established maximum greenhouse gas emission levels for electric utilities. Utilities were required to reduce emissions to 2000 levels by 2017, to 1990 levels by 2025, and to 20% of 1990 levels of 2050.
- EO 07-127 Continued — Adopted stricter motor vehicle tailpipe emission standards, requiring a 30% reduction in vehicle emissions by 2016. Increased appliance energy efficiency standards by 15%.
- Florida Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change (EO 07-128) — Established a team, appointed by the governor, that would develop a climate change action plan. The team would submit recommendations for legislation.
- Florida Climate Protection Act of 2008 (HB7135)
- Requires changes to the Florida Building Code increasing the energy efficiency of new buildings and homes by 50% by 2019
- Investor-owned utilities must develop a standardized interconnection and metering program for customer-owned renewable generation (i.e. residential solar panels)
- Requires Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to establish a statewide renewable portfolio standard specifying a minimum percentage of retail electricity supplied by renewable energy
- Requires Florida Department of Environmental Protection to create a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions
- Florida joined The Climate Registry, an interstate program to gather and share GHG emissions data. Major emitters in the state are required to monitor and report their emissions accordingly.
- Established the Florida Energy and Climate Commission to coordinate state efforts on energy and climate change. The Commission was tasked with developing energy efficiency projects, raising funds for climate adaptation, etc.
- Requires the Public Service Commission to adopt energy efficiency goals under FEECA (the Florida Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act) that will increase the “development of demand-side renewable energy systems.” In effect, this means the PSC must adopt goals, to be implemented by all investor-owned utilities, which will expand residential solar programs. See Fla. Stat. Ann. 366.82(2).
Policy Actions [Source]
- Installed solar panels on the roof of the governor’s mansion
- Public Service Commission: Under Crist, the PSC adopted moderate energy efficiency goals for utilities in its 2009 FEECA goal-setting proceeding. The Commission adopted a new test for analyzing efficiency measures which favors increased efficiency goals and selects measures that are more accessible to low-income communities. The Commission also initiated a residential solar pilot program in compliance with the change made to the law in 2008.
- The PSC also denied applications to build six new coal-fired power plants, preventing what would have been a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
Note on the PSC: The makeup of the PSC has remained nearly identical from Governor Crist to Governor Scott, as Scott reappointed the same people who were selected by Crist. [Source]. That being said, the PSC is an appointed body that is politically beholden to the governor. The same group of people have made remarkably different policy decisions across the Crist and Scott administrations.
Rick Scott (2011-2014)
During his election campaign in 2010, Scott publicly stated that he was not convinced that climate change was real or anthropogenic. Once in office, Governor Scott disassembled and ended the climate initiatives approved under Crist’s administration.
- State Departments—Reorganization—Transfer of Powers and Duties (SB2156, 2011)
- Eliminated the Florida Energy and Climate Commission
- Effectively eliminated the Department of Community Affairs by terminating or relocating all of its responsibilities
- Repealed the Florida Climate Protection Act of 2008
Policy Actions [Source]
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection ceased climate change policy development and programs.
- Public Service Commission: The PSC is currently reviewing the FEECA energy efficiency goals for 2014-2019. The goals proposed by utilities are to achieve almost zero energy efficiency, and cancel the solar pilot program launched under the Crist administration.
Charlie Crist made climate change mitigation and adaptation a serious priority during his time as governor. Rick Scott moved our state backwards by undoing the positive actions of the Crist administration, and has consistently failed to act on climate change.