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Climate change is impacting so much around us: heat, flooding, health, wildlife, housing, and more. WUSF, in collaboration with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, is bringing you stories on how climate change is affecting you.

Climate activists are 'excited' about Tampa's new Climate Action and Equity Plan

Brooke Ward of Food and Water Watch with Pastor Steve Kauffman of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Tampa.
Jessica Meszaros
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WUSF
Brooke Ward of Food and Water Watch with Pastor Steve Kauffman of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Tampa.

Here are the top five climate issues on Tampanians' minds: the need for canopies at bus stops and adequate transportation, affordable and weatherproof housing, a clear emergency preparedness plan for the community, farming and food assistance, and the consistent street flooding.

Clean energy advocates said they're getting everything they asked for in Tampa's Climate Action and Equity Plan, which was released Friday.

Tampa emits approximately 13.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person, per year. To compare, Orlando contributes 21 metric tons, Sarasota: 12.6, and St. Petersburg: 10.9.

The Plan

Tampa expects to reduce carbon emissions, in part, by utilizing solar energy on more of its government facilities, and reducing vehicle miles traveled.

And it will increase carbon capture, like conserving and rehabilitating mangroves and coastal wetlands. The plan says these ecosystems annually sequester carbon at a rate 10 times greater than mature tropical forests.

There’s also a focus on housing and development. The city’s plan said it will work with community partners to develop home renovation programs, and “focus on helping those with less economic capacity that have strong local social networks."

Mayor Jane Castor issued an executive order Friday requiring all city departments to establish resilient building practices when developing capital improvement projects.

“A sustainable city is just not an aspiration; it is a necessity. As we continue to grow here in Tampa, we have to do that successfully, and that is going to include addressing climate change,” she said.

“By adopting the city Climate Action Plan, we're not only protecting our environment, but we're also creating opportunities for economic growth, job creation and a higher quality of life for all of our residents.”

Inflation Reduction Act

The city held a press conference outside the Loretta Ingraham Center, the site of its second solar installation. It follows the city center at Hanna Avenue, which is currently under construction.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor spoke alongside the mayor, saying Tampa taxpayers will save money through the federal Inflation Reduction Act, as well.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor shaking hands with community ambassadors who helped Tampa and the CLEO Institute canvas the city surveying residents.
Jessica Meszaros
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WUSF
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor shaking hands with community ambassadors who helped Tampa and the CLEO Institute canvas the city surveying residents.

She said the city will receive 30% cashback on every clean energy project built, like the solar-powered Ingraham Center.

"When we save money here at a community center like the Ingraham Center, or the Tampa Convention Center ... or the Tippin Water Plant, or fire stations, that's money back into the pockets of taxpayers across this community," the congresswoman said.

Community Input

The city also pledges to continue including community members most impacted by flooding and heat into the conversation. In 2021, Tampa partnered with the nonprofit CLEO Institute to hold listening sessions headed up by Betty Jean-Jeremie.

Jean-Jeremie said she heard incredible stories from local residents and advocates through surveys in English and in Spanish.

“Five key concerns surfaced over and over again: the need for canopies at bus stops and adequate transportation, affordable and weatherproof housing, a clear emergency preparedness plan for the community, farming and food assistance, and the consistent flooding on the streets of Tampa,” Jean-Jeremie said.

“Today is a celebration of our community and government working together to quick create a more equitable, sustainable, healthier Tampa.”

Black woman with a red long-sleeve shirt and blonde hair pictured on the right of the image with a group of people scattered behind her and to the left.
Jessica Meszaros
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WUSF
Jamie Dickerson was approached by the CLEO Institute when Betty Jean-Jeremie went to speak to her group the Spring Hill Senior VIPs of Sulphur Springs.

Jamie Dickerson, a resident of Tampa for more than 30 years, decided to become an ambassador of the project and help canvas door-to-door.

“I have COPD, there are other people that have like asthma, COPD, they have breathing problems … sometimes it is so very hot, especially when the temperatures get like 100 degrees and more, you can't breathe outside,” Dickerson said.

That’s why she decided to help. Plus, she’s a fan of this plan. As is activist Brooke Ward with Food and Water Watch.

Tampa Electric

Ward said she’s excited about this move, and was glad to see the plan mentions Tampa Electric.

"This Climate Action and Equity Plan said that TECO really is what's standing in our way in order to move to 100% clean, renewable energy. Net zero is not that — it's a way to have carbon offsets to pay-to-play, whereas this plan specifically is asking for a 100% clean, renewable future free from fossil fuels," Ward said.

Sources of municipal energy from the City of Tampa Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
City of Tampa
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Courtesy
Sources of municipal energy from the City of Tampa Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

Ward is calling on Hillsborough County to mimic what Tampa has done to protect those who live outside of the city borders, and expects to hold a press conference about this Thursday morning before the county commission meeting.

Preemption Laws

Whit Remer, Tampa's sustainability and resilience officer, said Florida's recent preemption laws stopped the city from enacting building codes or policies to dictate the types of fuels utilities use.

"But ultimately, there was so much work to do here with just the city's own municipal operations, our water treatment facility, our wastewater treatment facility, our waste energy facility, that we've got our work cut out for us for the next couple years anyway," Remer said.

Tampa's Sustainability and Resilience Officer addressing the crowd beside Mayor Jane Castor and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
Jessica Meszaros
/
WUSF
Tampa's Sustainability and Resilience Officer addressing the crowd beside Mayor Jane Castor and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.

The city is currently seeking an energy manager.

My main role for WUSF is to report on climate change and the environment, while taking part in NPR’s High-Impact Climate Change Team. I’m also a participant of the Florida Climate Change Reporting Network.