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Column: In Tampa, St. Pete And Orlando, The Florida ‘Race To Zero’ Has Started

By Sharon Wright, Whit Remer and Chris Castro, Tampa Bay Times, May 11, 2021

Our three cities are setting aggressive net-zero and carbon-neutrality goals.

This year’s Florida Climate Week brought together leaders in climate solutions from across the state, throughout the country and around the world. As sustainability directors for three of Florida’s largest cities — St. Petersburg, Tampa and Orlando —we were proud to join in the discussion about the impact our changing climate on the Sunshine State and what we can all do to leave behind a cleaner, more sustainable planet for future generations of Floridians.

As part of our panel discussion, we also formally announced a new, statewide coalition that aims to harness the power of collaboration between the mayors of Florida cities to build momentum for climate change initiatives. The Florida Race to Zero, a statewide campaign that aligns with the global Race to Zero initiative, will challenge our three cities — and any other Florida city that wants to participate — to set and reach aggressive net-zero and carbon-neutrality goals and “race” towards those goals in the spirit of friendly competition.

This collaborative effort is just another way that Florida cities are leading on the issue of climate change. Florida feels the impact of climate change more so than perhaps any other state, as rising sea waters, larger and more intense hurricanes, and higher temperatures take their toll on our communities and marine ecosystems. So, it’s our aim to collaborate with one another, borrow from one another, compete with one another and work toward this common goal in ways that work best in each of our communities to reduce carbon emissions

The efforts Florida cities are making to accelerate sustainability, resiliency and climate action will play a critical role in lessening the impact of climate change on our communities. However, importantly, Florida cities should not have to bear the burden of tackling climate change alone. Government officials at all levels — local, state and federal — as well as the private sector must join in the effort to address climate change through innovative, forward-thinking solutions.

The state of Florida took a number of important steps this year to fund mitigation efforts. But, we need to continue to address the root causes of carbon emissions. As Congress and the Biden administration work to address the issues facing Americans, we hope that Florida’s congressional delegation in particular, from Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to our 27 House members, can help lead the way to advance common sense climate solutions that will help us mitigate and adapt to this crisis in holistic, comprehensive way. Only by working together, across party lines and though public-private engagement, can we truly begin to solve an issue of this magnitude.

Chris Castro is director of Sustainability & Resilience at the city of Orlando, Whit Remer is Chief Sustainability and Resiliency Officer at the City of Tampa and Sharon Wright is director of Office of Sustainability & Resiliency at the City of St. Petersburg.


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