Pensacola is taking action against the effects of climate change. The Pensacola City Council established the Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Task Force in 2017. This November, the task force completed their mission and presented a series of recommendations for how the city of Pensacola can move forward to protect the community.
Christian Wagley works as the coastal organizer for the Gulf Coast Restoration Network. He was one of the original advocates for the creation of the task force, which he believes is an essential part of ensuring a solid future for Pensacola. Wagley thinks the task force created a report that will serve as a useful guide for the city’s future.
“It’s something that we didn’t have before,” Wagley said. “Without this report, without the great work of the task force and all the experts they heard from and the research they did, we would just be running blindly, we wouldn’t have anything to go from. But now we have that basic blueprint and recommendations.”
After nearly two years of research and planning by the group, the completed report asks the city to make some changes: designing the city for walking and biking instead of driving, limiting greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging renewable energy. The report also warns of rising sea levels and more severe weather that will threaten the coastal community.
Dr. Haris Alibašić served on the Pensacola Climate Task Force. He has worked on the federal, state, and local level to develop climate resiliency plans. Alibašić says areas of Pensacola are already seeing the symptoms of climate change.
“The issue is we don’t see immediate impacts until we see a massive rain event that historically never happened here or other events that are going to be significant for communities to understand and realize that these weather events are unusual,” Alibašić said.
As less is done on the federal level under the current administration on the national level, Alibašić touts the ability local governments have to take action. He says they don’t have time to wait on the federal government to direct them in regards to climate change.
These recommendations are critical to helping Pensacola adapt to climate change. But implementing them is even more important.
“It’s a first step that then needs to be taken to the next level, which is how do we start planning, set up the timeline, and set up some of the measurable targets,” Alibašić said. “Because without measurable targets and champions to implement those targets, it’s going to be one of those recommendations that sits and collects dust on the shelf.”
Sherri Myers serves on the City Council representing District 2 and says her first priority will be hiring someone to keep the city accountable and manage the progress of the plan.
“I will certainly be talking to the mayor about this,” Myers said. “And I think that the City Council as a body can certainly recommend that such a position be established. And we will fund it, or at least I will propose that we fund it.”
Myers says she plans to bring up the first stages of implementation to Mayor Robinson in January 2019.