A message from the Chief Resilience Officer
As we look back, 2020 was one of the most difficult years in memory. Not only did our County and the world have to confront the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated hardships of that shock, but also here in South Florida we experienced the most active storm season ever, along with the hottest year on record. Although we were spared direct hits from a hurricane, the sheer number of named storms was a stark reminder of how vulnerable our County and the state of Florida are to climate change that is fueling more frequent, more intense, and wetter storms. More than any previous year, we witnessed the harsh realities of climate change in 2020, leading us to remain steadfast in our long-standing conviction that the time for us to act must continue to be now.
With the release of the updated Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact unified sea level rise curves – based on the best, most recent scientific data – we see the acceleration of sea level rise. This means that impacts will be felt sooner than previous projections showed, making it even more urgent for us to find creative ways to adapt while also mitigating the damage of greenhouse gas emissions.
To overcome these challenges, we are proud to be working with Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and all County departments to advance multiple resilience goals designed to help our community deal with climate change while ensuring a more equitable and thriving future here in South Florida.
We continue to partner with the cities of Miami and Miami Beach and collaborate with all of our municipalities and a wide range of nonprofit and private-sector partners, Miami-Dade County took great strides forward in 2020 by implementing many of the 59 Action Items in our Resilient305 Strategy. This plan guides our team approach to enlisting community organizations and local leaders in our shared mission of reaching consensus to act so that we succeed in making this both the year and decade that Miami-Dade becomes an international trailblazer for climate action.
This year, the county will release our Sea Level Rise Strategy to address flooding challenges across the County in a comprehensive way. We will also work at the local scale to implement the Strategy through Adaptation Action Areas; the first being in the Little River area.
Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Back Bay study for coastal storm risk management continues to move forward. This three-year study is an opportunity for our County to help secure federal resources over the coming decades to implement projects that would protect infrastructure. This study and others have clearly demonstrated that the benefits of proactive, preventative measures far exceed the costs. Therefore we must continue our work to invest in preventing damage ahead of a storm, rather than rebuilding after it.
While media coverage in 2020 often focused on adapting to climate change, the County balanced efforts in this area with a clear mission to reduce our carbon footprint. We continue to implement Building Efficiency 305 (BE305), a program to increase water and energy savings and reduce greenhouse gases, and we recently launched the BE305 Challenge to assist local building managers who want to cut costs while minimizing the negative impact of their facilities. We also completed our 2017 greenhouse gas inventory, which will be released this year. By focusing on water and energy efficiency and continuing to measure our emissions, we are taking critical steps toward a healthier future for our planet. Integration of all County water and electricity bills through EnergyCap software has been vital in tracking our own use and in reducing inefficiencies. We are proud to be leading by example.
Taking the benefits of green living to our most economically challenged residents, the County, the City of Miami Beach and several Community-Based Organizations including the NAACP are working together to facilitate deployment of renewable energy in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. This is yet another example of public and non-for-profit collaboration to bridge the equity gap for access to renewable energy, with public-private partnerships enabling us to achieve more than we could hope to accomplish going it alone.
These advances in 2020 have been impressive, but much more work is needed to truly make a difference, especially in light of the fact that County government accounts for less than 5 percent of communitywide GHG emissions. Our first steps have been very promising, but we must remember that long-term success can only be achieved through the integrated teamwork of our many partners and all our residents.
As Miami-Dade’s first Chief Resilience Officer, it is my job to lead development of strategies that help our County adapt, survive and thrive in the face of ongoing stresses and any big shocks that come our way. In the year ahead, we will double down on our work toward a more climate resilient and equitable Miami-Dade, but we need for these carefully researched and well thought-out plans to be acted on immediately. We are at a tipping point. If continue as we have, we will watch even more damage unfold before us. But if we tap into our ability to innovate, to solve complex problems and to lead one another forward by our example, we can adapt, and we will thrive.
Miami-Dade County’s Office of Resilience looks forward to a new year of strengthened collaborations, increasing effectiveness and expanding partnerships to help ensure that our community excels today and long into the future. #WeCanWeWill.
Thank you for your contributions in this vital work. Each and every one of us has an integral role to fulfill in the year and decade ahead.
James F. Murley