Although Bob Buckhorn isn’t likely to sign onto a Sierra Club pledge putting Tampa on record as attempting a 100 clean energy portfolio by a certain year, his administration says he’s doing plenty to combat the negative implications of climate change on the city.
Buckhorn did join St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman in signing on to a group of over 300 mayors earlier this month who say they intend to fully the intended mission of the Paris Climate agreement, which President Trump has said the U.S. won’t abide by.
“This mission, and similar efforts happening around the city, overlap Sierra Club’s mission,” Buckhorn said in a statement, issued as approximately two dozen activists descended on City Hall on Monday to drop off nearly 2,000 petitions calling for him to join on the Ready for 100 campaign.
The organizers said they are putting the pressure on him now to sign the pledge because they want him to join the list of more than 100 mayors who will have joined the Ready for 100 campaign and plan to hold a press conference this Friday afternoon touting the plan at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in Miami Beach.
Buckhorn will be at that meeting, but won’t at that press conference.
Dayna Lazarus from the group Organize Florida led the activists into the lobby at City Hall, where she and other activists placed the petitions calling on the mayor to join the “Ready for 100” campaign on an administrative aide’s desk.
“We do a lot in this city on sustainability,” Buckhorn spokesperson Ashley Bauman told Lazarus. “And we’re doing everything in our power to combat sea level rise and climate change, and we really appreciate the work you’re doing.”
Bauman went on to add that Buckhorn is frequently asked to sign onto such pledges, and reminded her of his earlier pledge to work on pushing for the city to live up to aspirations of the Paris agreement.
“We are incredibly grateful for speaking out in support of taking action on climate change, and today we are presenting him an opportunity to take that action,” said Lazarus.
The activists then held a press conference outside of City Hall immediately afterward where speakers talked about the dangers of sea level rise, a resonant issue considering that the Tampa Bay area region is considered to be in the top ten in the nation that is most vulnerable to this phenomenon.
“When you talk to the folks who live in South Tampa and Port Tampa neighborhoods, they are painfully aware that sea level rise is happening,” said Lazarus. “They’re having to deal with the ways to school and work, property damage, rising mosquito population and mold and flood insurance is now so expansive in those neighborhoods.”
“Tampa is running out of time,” warned Tampa Bay Sierra Club Chairman Kent Bailey. “Only a determined, deliberate action to immediately shift to 100 percent renewable energy can save Tampa Bay from disaster.”
While it’s been more common for Buckhorn to ignore signing on to such pledges during his six years in office (in spite of the Paris agreement), administration officials point to the work that the mayor did last summer in lobbying for a $251 million draining improvement program to address serious flooding issues that plague Tampa neighborhoods every summer when the rainy season begins. The City Council passed the measure on a 5-2 vote, with only Frank Reddick and Charlie Miranda dissenting.
It came nearly two years after that same City Council rejected a similar proposal.
City Councilman Guido Maniscalco applauded Buckhorn for signing onto the Paris climate accord with other mayors, and believes he should sign the Sierra Club pact as well.
“It’d be a step in the right direction,” he said. “It’d be sending a positive message that Tampa wants to be at the forefront and a leader and maintaining the conversation for better renewable energy sources, which will be benefit everyone.”
Last year, the City of St. Petersburg became the first city to sign on the Ready for 100 pledge. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer recently followed, and the Sarasota City Commission was scheduled to vote Monday on whether they will sign on to the plan.
Although there have been reports that St. Pete plans to aim for a 100 percent clean energy portfolio by 2030, that’s not accurate, says Sharon Wright, St. Petersburg’s sustainability coordinator. No specific year has been set (as of yet) to try to achieve that goal, she says.