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Anna V. Eskamani

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

In a letter signed by 30 representatives, Democrats are asking 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 spoke with Central Florida Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani about what the declaration would mean for Florida.

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

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

But we haven’t seen efforts to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We have not seen efforts to address the impact on marginalized communities. We are grappling with an increase in property insurance across the state. And this is also attributed to the failure to manage the risks associated with climate change.

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

ESKAMAN: Well for me, reducing our greenhouse gases is paramount. Although we are the Sunshine State, we are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels. And at this point, Florida hasn’t pursued renewable energy goals. We have not pursued objectives around carbon neutrality. And we cannot afford to be bystanders in this clean energy revolution.

So we want to see leadership in the commitment to a clean energy economy. We also want to make sure the 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 political experts or former politicians. We want legitimate experts to lead this effort because science must be our guide.

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

ESKAMAN: Well, Earth Day is such an important opportunity to reflect on this incredible planet we call home and recommit to action. So we are intentional to time this letter with Earth Day. Because we want to send a message to our Governor, my colleagues, and the entire State of Florida: As you take action to recognize Earth Day, remember that we are all part of this larger ecosystem. broad that requires not just one day of action, but daily action and transformational policy change.

Everyone is impacted by climate change. But those who are most vulnerable will be the most affected. It will be the communities that are our agricultural workers working outdoors, so they will feel the heat of rising temperatures. It will be our climate refugees who will lose everything due to extreme weather conditions. It will be the low-income family that cannot afford gasoline or electricity because it is tied to fossil fuels, which are much more volatile.

So it’s not just a decades-old problem that we’re trying to prevent. The problems are felt today. So we must act now to support everyday Floridians in the short term but also for the benefit of the long term.