Category Archives: Florida

Breaking News: Florida Sets Climate Goal of 100% Renewable Energy by 2050 by Accepting Youth Petition

FDACS Press Conference

Today is a big day for Florida and for our environment.

As a result of the Petition my friends and I filed in January, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried agreed to begin the rulemaking process and today announced the Rule setting the goal that Florida achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050. This Rule holds the promise of starting to solve the cause of our climate crisis, the use of fossil fuels, and I could not be more excited, nor proud.

I’d like to start by thanking my other three youth Petitioners in this historic effort: Valholly, Isaac, and Levi. I must tell you that whether it’s acting as youth plaintiffs in the lawsuit we filed against Governor Scott several years ago or the Rule we are advancing today, it is not easy putting ourselves in the line of fire so to speak, especially so at such young ages, nor is it easy having to make countless sacrifices to fight for our environment. But I know I speak for each of us when I say that the importance of what we are trying to accomplish, what we are trying to protect not only for ourselves but for every future generation is worth the time and sacrifice. So, thank you Valholly, Isaac, and Levi.

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And speaking of young Floridians, allow me to also thank the hundreds of young people all over the state who signed on to support our Petition earlier this year. To each of you I am sincerely grateful and most certainly proud. The work to implement rules to shift Florida’s energy to sustainable solutions will be long and I suspect often hard, but I know I can count on young Floridians to do the right thing, to fix what the adults before us have done and to make Florida a leader in the world-wide fight against our climate change crisis.

I’d like to, of course, thank Commissioner Fried for her leadership in accepting our Petition as well as her staff members Ms. Shelby Scarpa and Mr. Steven Hall for their hard work. Supporting our Petition for Rulemaking requires fortitude and a passion to set political differences aside but, of course, anything truly worthwhile requires such sacrifices and I am proud of each of you for making the right decision and supporting the concerns of not only my friends and me, but future generations forever more.

I’d also like to thank the folks from Our Children’s Trust including Julia Olson and especially my friend, lawyer, and longtime supporter in my desire to see Florida address the cause of climate pollution, Andrea Rogers, as well as Paul Rink and David Schwartz. Allow me to also thank Mitchell Chester, my Ft. Lauderdale based attorney. I’ve known Mitchell since I began working to fix our climate crisis when I’d just become a teenager and I am very grateful for his support and friendship for now nearly a decade, so thank you Mitch.

So on this gorgeous South Florida Spring Day, I’d like to share why today’s announcement is so important, what should happen next and why the opportunity ahead of us is so exciting.

As I mentioned, and as is worth repeating, the promise that the Rule holds is that today Florida can begin to actually address a core cause of our climate crisis: the use of fossil fuels in Florida’s energy system. That’s why today’s announcement and the steps that will follow are so monumentally important to our future.

The 2006 Florida Renewable Energy Policy (§366.92) that the Florida Legislature passed was created to transition our energy sources in Florida to sustainable sources by 2050 and not only better protect our own State but help the United States and the world beyond solve the cause of our climate crisis. Unfortunately, 12 years have passed since that law was created and in that time our government has done nearly nothing to embrace the 2006 law’s promise of shifting Florida’s energy sources to entirely sustainable ones.

That is until today when inaction transitions into action.

And speaking of politics, some elected leaders would have you believe that they are committed to addressing our climate crisis by strictly touting mitigation and resiliency efforts.

Unfortunately, it is true that we have no choice but to work to mitigate the damage mankind has already done and continues to do to our atmosphere and oceans by employing measures you can find all over South Florida such as seawalls, raising roads, and installing pumps as just a few examples.

But if we are to ever actually solve what’s causing our climate change crisis it will not be through mitigation and resiliency but by having our leaders, both private and public, actually address the foundational cause.

Now I might only be 22 but it seems to me that rather than allowing the problem to get worse by the day, rather than throwing away hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, and in time trillions, to try and mitigate the problem we should be trying to solve what’s causing the problem: the use of fossil fuels all over our planet, including most certainly right here in Florida.

Is that not a worthy goal of our public servants, those elected to help us? I sure think so and, with that in mind, I am calling on our elected officials to embrace the rule making process and help nudge our energy providers to becoming 100% sustainable by 2050.

And speaking of Florida’s energy providers, I call on each of you to also embrace the Rule and to transparently work with the State and public to meet the goal of only utilizing sustainable energy on or before 2050. Together we can transition our energy sources to sustainable ones.

To Eric Silagy, Florida Power and Light’s CEO, and both my local power company and Florida’s largest energy company, I’d like to challenge you and your parent company, NextEra Energy, to openly and publicly embrace this transition and the Rule that is about to be established in a transparent manner. I ask you to set aside the PR and expensive television advertising touting your supposed commitment to sustainable energy and ask that we work together to shift your energy sources to being 100% sustainable by 2050.

FPL has been in business here in Florida since 1925 and after nearly 100 years sources less than 3% of its energy from solar, from the sun. Remarkably, FPL sources nearly the same amount of its energy from coal and oil. Mr. Silagy, FPL can and must do better and I call on you to embrace the rulemaking process to work with us to make this a reality.

I also want to very specifically ask Florida Governor DeSantis to set the political rhetoric aside and to publicly embrace the rule making process and in doing so demand that Florida’s energy suppliers shift entirely to sustainable sources. If you are serious about protecting our environment, about Florida’s future and about lowering energy costs for Floridians then today’s news should be easy for you to support.

Allow me to also address a couple of the reasons why today’s news is so filled with opportunity for our state.

Some, of course, will suggest that one state within one country can’t have an impact in helping solve the climate crisis but I do not agree. Consider that according to the Florida Chamber Foundation, if Florida were a country of its own then our economy would be the 17th largest in the world. And soon will be the 15th largest and by 2030 Florida is projected to be the 10th largest ahead of entire countries such as Russia, Brazil, and Spain to name just three. With 22 million residents, a number expected to grow to at least 26 million by the end of this decade, Florida most certainly has the size and scope to make a real difference in solving our climate crisis and to lead the way for others to surely follow.

 And since we are in sunny South Florida let’s consider that according to the World Economic Forum 79% of the United States’ energy demand could be met by solar power and enhanced battery systems by 2050, while also lowering energy system costs. And that’s just from solar power.

I’ve grown up part-time in a solar powered home and it has long seemed to me that in a place called The Sunshine State, the State of Florida government should embrace and facilitate solar power both as the major source of our energy but as an industry. Can you imagine a day when most of Florida’s energy comes from the sun? Or for that matter a day where our state is the worldwide leader in manufacturing solar equipment, panels, and batteries? Unfortunately, Florida is nowhere near where it could be, but today’s news is a step in the right direction.

And speaking of good news, in 2021 the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy concluded that the State of Florida has the most capacity for solar energy in the entire Southeast. 17 States have already committed to shifting to 100% renewable energy within the next three decades and cities here in Florida such as Orlando and Sarasota have committed to the same goal. This is what citizens of the United States want, this is what citizens of the State of Florida want and, it’s what our environment needs and deserves so today’s news certainly helps us take a step in the right direction and for that I am very, very grateful.

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Thanks again to everyone who has worked so hard to make today’s announcement a reality. I can’t begin to emphasize enough how important it is that we take real action to eliminate our fossil fuel use before its too late, before more of Florida’s 1,350 miles of coastline disappear and before special places like Miami Beach, the Everglades, or the Florida Keys are lost forever.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in writing the petition, signed the petition, and to Commissioner Fried and her staff for implementing the Rule.

Happy Earth Week everyone!

What Will Nikki Do?

That’s the question I’ve had on my mind a lot over the last month.

What will Nikki do?

That’s Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and 2022 Democratic candidate for Florida Governor Nikki Fried. Three friends of mine and I filed what’s called a Petition for Rulemaking to demand that her office comply with a 2006 Florida law that calls for our government agencies to create the rules and steps for businesses to reduce carbon pollution, while also eliminating the systemic cause of that pollution: fossil fuels.  Friday, February 5th will mark 30 days since my friends and I filed our Petition and the law allows the government 30 days to respond to our request.

Yesterday my friends, our lawyers, and I met with the Commissioner and her Staff to discuss our Petition, its status, and her office’s next steps. I don’t yet know what the Department of Agriculture and, within it the Office of Energy, will do but I can say that the time has come for Florida’s political leaders to follow the 2006 law, something that has sadly not happened since it was implemented nearly two decades ago. Just think about that. Nearly two decades after a law was created to commence eliminating fossil fuels and to shift energy sources to sustainable ones in one of the most fragile places on the planet, and our entire government has done exactly nothing to create the rules and processes to demand compliance. And we wonder why our climate crisis only gets worse by the day.

Commissioner Fried has frequently talked about our climate crisis but has thus far failed to take any meaningful action to address the cause of the pollution caused by fossil fuels. In 2019 Commissioner Fried, for example,  addressed the attendees of the Florida Energy & Climate Summit and talked about the urgent need for Florida and America to address energy and climate issues including saying this:

“It’s time as the nation’s third largest state – using the third-most energy – to face the facts on climate change and energy efficiency, and start preparing for the future. There’s no time to wait. Greenhouse gases are up 400% since 1950, and over 900 people move to Florida every day – we have to change how we use energy. That’s why today, I’ve unveiled an ambitious package of legislation to address greenhouse gas emissions, fund research on climate resilience and sustainability, and help fund energy and water efficiency upgrades on Florida’s farms.”

Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, October 3rd, 2019

Or, consider that in early 2021 the Commissioner said the following:

“Florida is one of the states most vulnerable to the climate crisis. Our leaders should be moving forward on clean energy-instead they are upholding a system that raises costs for consumers and protects special interests at the expense of our future. We have to break the system.”

Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried

I sure do agree with that sentiment. Yes, we do need to “break the system,” our antiquated use of fossil fuels, and along with it our energy distribution system, including the overt control of power creation and distribution by monopolistic public utilities far more interested in their investors and profits than eliminating pollution no matter what their expensive advertising might otherwise suggest. But, the issue is that such comments and speeches are just talk.

It is now essential that we see actual action and, thus, this week’s response to our Petition, a petition that young people all over Florida have enthusiastically signed on to support (thanks everyone!), holds the promise of allowing Florida to take a serious, meaningful step towards addressing the cause of our climate change crisis.

So tonight, on the eve of the Commissioner’s deadline to respond to the Petition that my friends and I have presented to demand that the talk comes to an end and the solutions commence, let’s all ask and wonder “what will Nikki do?” And here’s to hoping she does the right thing, the bold thing, and, remarkably, the thing that none of Florida’s so-called leaders have been willing to do in the 16 years since the law that called for action was created.

To learn more about our petition or to join us as we demand that the state of Florida take action to address the cause of our climate crisis please visit the petition website here.

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Tomorrow, June 1st, my friends and I will get our first actual day in Court (albeit via zoom due to COVID-19) in our climate change lawsuit, Reynolds V. Florida, which we filed in April 2018. Since the suit was filed, the State and elected officials including the Governor, have done everything they can to have it delayed and dismissed. And yet again, that will be the point of Monday’s Hearing; the Judge will consider the state’s most recent request to dismiss our lawsuit which seeks to have the state enforce the laws that are already in place and is designed to protect the environment, including our precious atmosphere.

While our state government has let all of us down in protecting our climate, oceans and atmosphere, someone who has long supported me and my passion to fix the problem before it’s too late, someone who has never let me down, is my dear friend Dick Jacobs. Dick has posted guest blogs here at The Sink or Swim Project before and I am about to share another one with you that he wrote recently about the lawsuit. But before I do I want to make what is a very, deeply personal observation.

Dick, as you will read, is 89 and has been bravely fighting stage IV melanoma cancer for several years in what is, seriously, a fight for his life. Over the last year I’ve unfortunately had to learn a lot about cancer as my mother was diagnosed and then has been battling breast cancer. She has bravely and stoically navigated through dozens of doctor and hospital visits, decisions about chemotherapy, radiation and four surgeries. Whether you are 89 like Dick or 52 like my mom, cancer is, needless to say, a very serious matter.

And yet even at his age and dealing with such a critical issue, here is Dick, just as passionate about the need for our world to address our climate change crisis for future generations before it’s too late as are any of my friends and I who are the plaintiffs in this lawsuit. Talk about an “inspiration”, a word people sometimes use when referring to us kids for asking the court to make the state to do the right thing. Nah. If you want to learn about a real inspiration then you need to learn about Dick Jacobs. He’s a real inspiration. And a hero.

And you know what else? To those who say they can’t do anything to solve the climate crisis or are too old to care or some such thing, then I hope you will consider my friend Dick who is right in the middle of the fight, on the front lines, at nearly 90 years of age. He knows the stakes are high for future generations and is serious about wanting to leave the world he’s lived in for nearly nine decades in better shape for that future than it’s been during his life. And that’s what I want too. To fix the climate crisis before it’s too late so that kids in the future can enjoy the places that I love and cherish but that are at risk of disappearing from our fossil fuel use. No matter your age I sure do hope you will join us in the most important battle that my generation will ever face and if you don’t believe me then consider the wisdom that Dick offers…

These gutsy kids called out Florida officials on climate change | Column

They will have their day in court on Monday. A long-time attorney explains why they’ve sued.

The kids with Dick Jacobs on courthouse steps in Miami in April 2018. Learn more at ourchildrenstrust.org/florida. [Courtesy of Robin Loznak, Our Children's Trust]

The kids with Dick Jacobs on courthouse steps in Miami in April 2018. Learn more at ourchildrenstrust.org/florida. [Courtesy of Robin Loznak, Our Children’s Trust]

My name is Dick Jacobs. I’m 89 years old, mostly a retired business attorney. For the past four years I’ve been in the fight of my life battling stage IV melanoma cancer. But as tough as that fight is, there’s another life or death battle – one that is a far tougher, and more important than my bout with cancer – that’s inspired me to action.

It all started after more than four decades of venture travel, trekking over the seven continents and writing Wonderlust, which chronicled my treks and the lessons I learned about caring for our Earth, the only home we have. I became convinced that I had to devote myself to helping our Earth with its growing cancer.

Thus, I became involved with eight gutsy kids and their suit against Florida, its governor and its key officials. The kids’ lawsuit isn’t about money. Their lawsuit is about protecting the kids’ constitutional, and fundamental rights, sourced in ancient laws over 1,500 years old, to a stable climate, which is essential to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

The kids are represented by a bevy of pro-bono, top notch trial lawyers from the Panhandle to Miami. The team of lawyers originally included the late Sandy D’Alemberte. Sandy was President of the American Bar Association and both President of Florida State University and Dean of their law school. Sandy was known as “The Father of Florida’s constitutional law” and believed in the profound importance of this case and the rights of these kids to get their day in court, as do all the lawyers involved.

On April 16, 2018, when the initial complaint was filed in the Leon County Court, I sent a thank you message to the trial lawyers on our team. It said: “As I read the final draft of the complaint, before I go to Moffitt Cancer Center this morning for the next step in my cancer treatment, I could not help but reflect on something that may surprise you: I am a registered Republican. I have always been a registered Republican, ever since I voted for Eisenhower for President in 1952. Unfortunately, the political party I once cherished has distorted the meaning of ‘conservative,’ which is grounded in ‘conserve,’ which means to preserve and protect, not to exploit or destroy. Florida’s leadership has totally abandoned those fundamental ideals.”

The email ended with, “These gutsy children, and this great team of trial attorneys, will remind us all of that being conservative means to conserve, to care for the only home we will ever have for ourselves and our future generations. This effort will make a difference. Thank you all.”

These young people—and young people across the globe—know that their future depends on the actions we take right now. They understand there is a short window to avoid the worst impacts of climate change by transitioning to clean energy solutions. They know Florida needs a plan to end the fossil fuel energy system the state has perpetuated.

These kids are role models for us all. I’ve heard comments shaming their parents for using their kids as pawns, putting them up to the litigation. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we met with the kids, it became clear that the kids were genuinely worried about the impacts of climate change on their future and they weren’t being pushed into this by parents. An amazingly sharp group, the youngest was Levi, then 8 years old. Levi’s been on 60 Minutes. Delaney Reynolds, now a University of Miami student, has been a speaker on climate issues before the United Nations. Luxha Aliheligi Phillips, an articulate 14 year old when I met her, is now a climate refugee, having left Miami. She is not alone. And it’s predicted that 2.5 million more people will be leaving Miami in the not too distant future because of global warming and rising seas.

The kids deserve our support. Won’t you stand with them before it’s too late?

Dick Jacobs, senior counsel with Johnson Pope law firm, practiced law in Pinellas County for more than 50 years. Learn more about the kids and their lawsuit.

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