In southeastern Florida, Miami, and the surrounding region are considered “ground zero” for climate impacts in the continental United States, experiencing the first and worst impacts of climate change so far. Without both strong climate resilience measures to prepare for these impacts and climate mitigation efforts to reduce their severity in the long run, rising sea levels, increasingly frequent and severe storms, extreme heat, and coastal erosion threaten major damage and disruption to communities, businesses, and property. The region, which is no stranger to extreme weather, has a demonstrated history of successfully learning from past disasters and rebuilding in a more resilient way. The region also has tremendous prospects for economic growth thanks to thriving tourism and real estate industries, and growth as a global hub for cleantech innovation. Continuing to attract diverse private sector investment can boost local economic resilience, while conversely, developing a climate resilient community can help make the region more attractive for companies to invest. Harmonized policies at the local, state, and federal level are needed to support better local resilience planning, build resilient infrastructure, and raise local corporate climate ambition. This brief summarizes key takeaways from our regional roundtable held virtually in Florida in June 2022, and offers recommendations for policymakers and companies to enhance resilience and economic development in southeast Florida.
Collect and Disseminate Data and Information
- Federal and state agencies should fund the collection and dissemination of neighborhood-level data on projected climate impacts such as extreme heat, flooding, and sea level rise.
- Corporations should share downscaled data relating to physical climate impacts with local small businesses and NGOs, when they collect it. Federal agencies should offer grants or other incentives to support companies in sharing this information.
- Federal, state, and local investments in infrastructure should make funding contingent on the integration of future conditions—including projected climate impacts—into planning to facilitate resilient infrastructure construction.
- The state government should facilitate regional coordination among local governments or local NGOs in partnership with local governments to identify opportunities for synergy in local zoning ordinances, particularly with regards to mitigation and resilience-related provisions. Detailed information, including key differentiations between neighboring ordinances, should be made accessible to developers.
- FEMA and NOAA should collaborate to offer locally-specific data and safety materials on climate impacts like extreme heat to employers and workers. Local governments should supplement these materials with outreach and communications strategies designed to target local populations most effectively, taking into account linguistic and cultural nuance.
- Resilience measures focused on protecting individuals should specifically focus on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable communities on the front lines of climate impacts: majority-Black and/or Hispanic populations, LGBTQIA+, elderly, disabled, low-income, or immigrant communities.
- State and local governments should incorporate education on climate-related human health impacts into public education programs and offer resources on outdoor safety in extreme heat, natural disaster preparedness, best practices for home energy resilience, and local government resources for enhancing resilience.
- Rating agencies should provide clearer guidance on how resilience planning and investments—or lack thereof—affect bond rating assessments.
Build Resilient Infrastructure
- The state—or, when impossible, local governments— should convene local government and other public and private sector partners in applications for economic development grants to build cohesive business and government support and increase competitiveness of grant applications.
- Where funding is limited, decisionmakers should prioritize infrastructure investments that support both mitigation and resilience goals, and when possible, should co-locate emissions reducing infrastructure with livability improvements.
- Both “green” and “gray” infrastructure is needed to support making South Florida more resilient to the impacts of climate change; Proposals to develop infrastructure to protect local assets from sea level rise, extreme weather, and other climate impacts should employ both forms of infrastructure where applicable.
Build an Ecosystem of Climate Innovation
- Companies should incorporate incentives that produce climate mitigation and resilience benefits into employee benefits to both attract new workers and support existing workers’ communities.
- The state should update building codes to set stringent energy efficiency targets for large buildings and commercial facilities and require resilient development.
- Local utilities and the state should pursue policies and programs to enable significant build-out of carbon-free electricity generation within the state.
Investing in climate resilience goes hand in hand with smart, long-term economic development. Proactive investments in resilience can support local economic growth and strengthen communities. In southeast Florida, while much progress has been made to date, more work remains ahead to prepare the region for the coming impacts of climate change. This is imperative to protect people and ecosystems from climate-fueled disasters, sea level rise, extreme heat, and other climate impacts, while also reducing risk for public and private investments in local infrastructure and assets. Ensuring these investments focus on equity and on bolstering communities is the best way to create a resilient economy for all residents of southeast Florida.
View more from the C2ES Regional Roundtable series here.