Instead of treating the transition from dirty fuels to clean energy as a problem we need to solve, we need to recognize that it’s actually an opportunity we get to seize.
Yes, we have challenges. Miami is Ground Zero for climate change and sea-level rise, and in South Florida climate change is increasingly not a political issue — it’s an issue of survival. It will affect Miami’s neighborhoods, tourism industry, drinking water and way of life.
But the greatest energy resource here is right over our heads. The sun can power this city and create thousands of jobs in the process. In recent years, the price of solar power has plummeted and now is cheaper than fossil fuels in many places. And in a growing trend around the country, cities are committing to 100 percent clean energy.
That’s right: All of the energy needed to power homes and businesses can come from clean sources. From small towns like Aspen and Grand Rapids to major cities like San Diego, mayors and city leaders are announcing plans to transition their cities to entirely clean sources. In fact, 14 cities across the country have already taken this pledge. And they’re doing it not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it saves money.
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The city manager of Georgetown, Texas, for instance, says his city chose 100 percent clean energy because it was best for the bottom line. The Republican mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, announced plans to move the nation’s eighth largest city to 100 percent clean energy because it supports both “a cleaner community and a stronger economy.”
Florida already has 6,500 solar jobs. That’s impressive, but there could be a lot more. Florida is ranked eighth in the nation, after states such as Massachusetts (15,000 solar jobs) and California (75,000 solar jobs). There’s no reason why the Sunshine State shouldn’t be first in solar energy, and Miami could lead the way.
That’s why the Sierra Club is joining with the CLEO Institute and Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner on Wednesday to launch our Ready For 100 campaign here in Miami. We invite anyone who wants Miami to become a clean energy leader to join us: brunemiami.eventbrite.com. We’re calling on all of Miami-Dade County’s mayors to commit to moving Miami to 100 percent renewable energy. As with other cities that have taken this pledge, developing a smart, effective plan to do this will take years, but luckily Miami’s leaders can learn from other cities that already have started. Miami has one significant advantage, though. It is ranked fifth in the nation for solar potential, which is higher than 13 other U.S. cities that have already committed to going all-in on clean energy.
Imagine if clean energy powered everything from our homes and businesses to transportation. While electric vehicles are already cleaner than conventional fuel-powered vehicles, when coupled with solar power, the cars and buses that currently contribute nearly half of Florida’s greenhouse gas emissions can be entirely clean and emissions free.
Florida already has 425 solar companies and 28 solar patents. And we’re just getting started. Florida currently only produces .1 percent of its electricity from solar, which shows the massive potential as we grow this sector.
So if you are ready for cleaner air and water, if you are ready to feel like Miami is doing its part to stop climate change, if you are ready for bold, ambitious goals that make this city an international leader, join us in telling all of the county’s mayors that you are Ready For 100.
Michael Brune is the executive director of the National Sierra Club, the country’s largest grassroots environmental organization.