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In The Absence Of Federal Support, Florida 'Future Fund' Aims To Empower Local Climate Adaptation

Flooding at Alton Road and Ninth Street on Miami Beach.
Hector Gabino
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

President Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have been reluctant to acknowledge the link between climate change and some of Florida's current environmental challenges, like King Tide flooding, stronger hurricanes and rising temperatures.

The apparent lack of concern among state and federal officials has left some South Florida communities worried about how to pay for adaptation projects. Now, a Washington D.C. think tank is collaborating with a Miami-based non-profit on fund to help.

"There’s an urgent need to respond and an urgent need to make investments," said Cathleen Kelly, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress. "The idea is that state leaders could address these challenges by creating a ' Florida Future Fund.'"

Her organization worked with the CLEO Institute, a Miami non-profit known for its "Climate 101'" community education programs, to develop a plan for the fund, the detailsof which were released Wednesday. Kelly said the groups are currently shopping the idea around to Florida elected officials and candidates.

Read more: Will Flooding From Sea-Level Rise Impact Your House? This App Lets You Find Out

The focus would be on flood protection and hardening infrastructure like roads and bridges against rising seas and hurricanes. Money could also potentially be used for green energy projects using solar panels or other low-carbon sources; upgrades to transportation systems; and tree planting to help offset carbon emissions and reduce heat exposure.

Funding would come from a mix of public and private sources, potentially including taxes, grants and utility fees. Kelly and Yoca Arditi-Rocha, co-executive director of the CLEO Institute, said they hope leaders would prioritize communities where there's the most need for additional investments in resilience. People in low-income communities could potentially apply for low- or no-interest loans.

“Climate change is already taking a toll on Florida’s economy, transportation, and energy infrastructure,” Arditi-Rocha said in a release. “In the absence of federal leadership, the Florida Future Fund would help give our state control over its own destiny.”

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Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.