Approximately two years in the making, Tampa officials last week unveiled a 156-page “Climate Action and Equity Plan, becoming the latest local government in Florida to lay out a path to transition to renewable energy and increase the city’s resilience to the effects of climate change.
The plan comes just days after two federal agencies released guidance that will for the first time allow local and state governments and nonprofit organizations to access clean energy tax credits that come from 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act, which contained nearly $370 billion in climate provisions.
“This plan is a blueprint for the future. It’s going to guide our decision making in so many ways,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said in introducing the plan at a community center in South Tampa where construction of a solar roof is currently underway. “Our stormwater projects will consider heavier and more intense rainfall, community centers will be outfitted with energy efficient solar panels, and we will continue to promote more sustainable transit options.”
She said the plan is guided by three goals: to reduce the city’s carbon emissions, build climate-ready infrastructure and “support all citizens along the way.”
In preparing the plan, the city of Tampa partnered with the CLEO Institute, a nonprofit focused on climate education and frontline community engagement, to gather input from local residents regarding climate issues such as flooding, excessive heat and improving communications in respect to emergency preparedness.
The Tampa Climate Action and Equity Plan has 143 specific initiatives organized into 10 climate action categories: Energy, water and wastewater, stormwater, transportation and land use, waste management, housing and development, community, habitat and environment, food and governance.
The plan arrives a year after Congress approved and President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act.
The bill was described by TIME magazine as “the most significant climate legislation in U.S. history,” with $369 billion earmarked to combat climate change, and nearly three-quarters of it – $270 billion – delivered through tax incentives, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury.
This week the Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service released guidance on provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that will enable local, state and Tribal governments as well as nonprofits and other entities to take advantage of clean energy tax credits.
“Cities like Tampa, local communities, nonprofits, churches, school districts and rural electric cooperatives now get 30% cash back on every clean energy project they build in their communities,” said Hillsborough County Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
“So what Tampa is going to do for you is to help you save money, because when we save money here at a community center…that’s money back in the pockets of taxpayers across this country. That’s money that can be put towards lowering our electric bill. And it’s just the start.”
The report lists how the city has initiated a study to define 20 buildings suitable for solar energy implementation, with an estimated total cost of $14 million, with a return on investment in a little more than 11 years time.
Several of the state’s largest communities, such as Miami-Dade and Broward counties, have established their own climate action plans, and the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact encompassing more than six million people was established more than a decade ago.
Local environmental advocates who attended the press conference praised the plan.
“It’s going to protect people’s health,” said Susan Glickman, with Florida Clinicians for Climate Action. “It’s going to help them save money by reducing their energy use, which is going to help us reduce the dangerous pollution that we’re putting into the atmosphere that’s warming the planet.”
“The city really took into consideration a lot of the demands of the community as far as making sure that this isn’t simply a municipal plan, but there are efforts that are going to directly invest in the community, through policies that will mandate moving off of fossil fuels”, said Brooke Errett, the Florida senior organizer with Food & Water Watch. “To incentivizing solar, to helping weatherize homes for those who might not be able to afford it. It really focuses on eliminating fossil fuels and increasing energy efficiency.”
However, Errett says the plan needs buy-in by the surrounding local county government as well.
“Hillsborough County Commission needs to pass a similar climate action and equity plan,” she said. “Tampa cannot do this in a silo. We’re part of a much bigger region, and especially with the funds it’s going to take to do this transition, we need to be accessing federal funds. The county needs to be a part of this, the region needs to be a part of this.”
This report first appeared on the website of the Florida Phoenix, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to coverage of state government and politics from Tallahassee. It has been edited for length.