By: Navya Natarajan, Florida Fellow
During the 2023 legislative session, Our Climate’s Florida team advocated for clean energy and climate justice in Florida, focusing on two bills in particular: SB 178: Upgrades to Education Facilities as Emergency Shelters and HB 293: Energy Transition Task Force.
SB 178 seeks to provide solar energy infrastructure to educational facilities that serve as emergency shelters during natural disasters, and HB 293 aims to create a task force with representation from different communities to provide recommendations for an equitable transition to clean energy. Both of these bills would be instrumental in addressing climate change in Florida.
Through power mapping legislators, researching committees, planning lobbying meetings, and officially meeting with our legislators to discuss these bills, I have learned so much about the legislative process in Florida and how we can use our voices to make an impact.
Advocating for climate action in Florida is not an easy feat. Florida is a state with a notoriously complex political environment that makes it difficult to pass climate legislation. Despite the dedicated efforts of many individuals to push for progress, the bills we focused on during this legislative session did not make it past their respective committees.
Reflecting on our work during this past session, I have come to realize that it’s easy to become discouraged when bills don’t pass, so it can help to recognize the progress that has been made. The Energy Transition Task Force bill was reintroduced this year, despite dying in committee last year, demonstrating that there is continued support for this bill. Upgrades to Education Facilities as Emergency Shelters have followed a similar trajectory. In 2021, it was filed as SB 198: Solar Schools, but was withdrawn before it was introduced. In 2022, the bill died in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, but it was reintroduced this year with bipartisan sponsors. The bill is sponsored by Senator Berman and co-sponsored by Senator Calatayud and others. This is a significant step forward, as it shows that support for clean energy is not limited to one side of the political spectrum.
While it can be discouraging to see bills fail to pass, we must remember that change takes time and persistence. The process can be long and challenging, often taking many years, but by continuing to fight for these bills, we are still making progress toward a sustainable and equitable future.
Navya Natarajan is a Florida fellow and a current student at the University of Florida. Navya is an Environmental Science major who is passionate about sustainability and climate justice. She plans to continue her education at law school to pursue a career in Environmental Law. Through her fellowship with Our Climate, Navya hopes to gain experience advocating for equitable policies and work alongside other dedicated individuals to make a positive difference in the world.