Why we need a Citizen’s Climate Investment Fund.

by Emily Gorman, Sierra Club Miami

Miami is globally recognized as ground zero for climate change. What if we were world-renowned for overcoming it as well? With all the chaos of this election season, you may not be aware of a powerful climate and economic recovery tool on the ballot this November. It’s called the Citizen’s Climate Investment Fund. There are several candidates in this election who support it and are asking for your vote. 

Whether it’s rescuing our local economy, preventing climate gentrification or protecting freshwater wells from rising saltwater, the question on everyone’s mind is “how are we going to pay for it?” In Miami, we have already agreed that we cannot fund hurricane resilience and infrastructure changes as individual people. We have to act together.

The Resilient 305 program has brought together Miami-Dade County, City of Miami, and City of Miami Beach for planning, staff and leadership development. The City of Miami’s Forever Bond is planning to fund public infrastructure shortfalls and investment needs, like sea walls and tree canopies. This is a great start as we respond to climate change.

But what about being part of the solution?

With our economy and our people hurting, it’s time to get creative. We need varied, alternative and flexible forms of funding if our local economy is going to absorb $3.2 billion in estimated costs due to climate change over the next 20 years. 

People are wondering if there is a place for them in this transition. If my ventanita can’t afford to switch, will my cafecito be served in styrofoam forever? When we get creative, we can also invest in small business solutions to pollution, in people lowering their energy bills and reducing their carbon footprint, and in fossil fuel workers remaining employable in a clean energy world. 

Enter the Citizen’s Climate Investment Fund, a cutting-edge model developed by residents and governments to fill the finance gap.  The Fund is designed to drive local innovation and directly support community sustainability initiatives. This kind of thing is already happening in other places around the country. 

The Portland Clean Energy Fund was designed and envisioned by grassroots leaders who are most impacted by climate change in Portland, particularly Black and indigenous people. Adopted by ballot initiative in 2018, the fund aims “ to provide a consistent long-term funding source to ensure that the City of Portland’s Climate Action Plan is implemented in a manner that supports social, economic and environmental benefits for all Portlanders, including the development of a diverse and well-trained workforce and contractor pool in the field of clean energy.” The fund is already accepting applications for $8.6 million in community projects in the first round of funding.

As a community and an economy on the frontlines of climate change, we need innovation, collaboration, and creativity to survive.

A Citizen-controlled Climate Investment Fund is exactly the kind of approach that can reduce pollution and ensure that every resident in Miami-Dade benefits from a sustainable future. 

Imagine what direct access to business development grants will mean for our struggling small businesses, especially during economic recovery. What innovations could our residents, schools and businesses create when they work together to envision a new world, and have the funding to build it? Imagine Miami-Dade County funding an economic recovery in a way that grows the economy of the future. 

Sustainable technologies already outpace the growth of their dinosaur counterparts. The solar industry is creating seven times more jobs per megawatt than the fossil fuel industry, at five times faster than the rate of the national economy. (Woah.) This is the kind of acceleration we need to lead the world.

Miami leaders are already expressing support for this idea. The Miami Forward policy platform has proposed a Citizen-controlled Climate Investment Fund. The proposal would be a source of grants to residents, nonprofits, and small businesses which is allocated by a grant committee of technical experts and local residents most-impacted by climate change. 

Local elected officials, candidates and advocates have pledged support for this idea, and some are on this year’s ballot. Voters of Miami-Dade who want a thriving local economy and a livable climate should consider supporting those candidates this year. But more importantly, they should commit to demanding a Citizen-controlled Climate Investment Fund from Miami-Dade County. If we’re going to be known as the “frontline,” let’s be the frontline of innovation, of recovery, of lasting success. 

You can join the effort for a thriving Miami-Dade by volunteering for Miami Forward, a local, grassroots, unfunded coalition of residents who care about our community, our economy, and our future. Sign up at MiamiForward.org and, while you’re there, check out the list of elected officials and candidates who support a citizen-controlled climate investment fund.

Now is the time to lead Miami into the future, now is the time to move Miami Forward.

Sign up to move Miami Forward here!

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