After months of pressure from climate-action groups like Fridays for Future Miami, Coral Gables commissioners declared a climate emergency today.
Their vote followed a speech by Emily Gonzalez, a Fridays for Future representative and a junior at Coral Gables Senior High School. “The youth and constituents of Miami ask you, our elected leaders and the people in power, to act for future generations … your kids and grandkids,” Gonzalez said. “We have to take action.”
Gonzalez has been striking in front of Coral Gables City Hall with the group weekly for the past four months. “Every single Friday, Vice Mayor [Vince] Lago allows all his constituents to go in to talk to him, so we, in a group of five or six, would go in,” Gonzalez said. “We would tell him, ‘Hey this is an emergency, put some action there. Other cities have done it.’”
It’s not the first time that Fridays for Future Miami has played a key role in bringing climate change to the forefront of a city agenda. The group has succeeded in similar efforts in the cities of Miami and Miami Beach.
Before the Coral Gables Commission voted on the resolution, resident Robert Ruano warned the city was not ready to declare an emergency. He said the vote should be delayed, citing the vote to cease consideration of adding bicycle lanes on Alhambra Circle. (Some residents fear the lanes on a street that is only 19 feet wide will be unsafe and cause traffic congestion.)
“If [we] are not committed as residents or elected officials to combat [greenhouse gas emissions], don’t pass resolutions that say [we are],” Ruano said.
In response to those concerns, Lago said that he did not want to pass a measure that was only aspirational. Commissioner Michael Mena added that the city has been making progress in terms of actually following through with its sustainability management plan. Mena also said Ruano was taking out his frustration with the Alhambra project on this resolution.
Senior Sustainability Analyst Matt Anderson said the city has reduced energy use by 10 percent, but believes irrigation needs some improvement. The city is now working on this with Miami-Dade County. “I think this commission has been in a leadership role when it comes to climate,” he said. “We’ve put our money where our mouth is.”
Gonzalez sees measures like this one as a step forward, but notes that other cities have passed similar resolutions to satisfy activist groups and calm them down.
“That’s how mostly everyone in Miami sees it, like, ‘We did this and … just move on,’” Gonzalez said. “But that’s not it. [They] declared climate emergency and … that means [they] have to follow through.”
Update: This story has been updated to refer to Fridays for Future Miami as a climate-action group rather than an environmental organization.