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Ag commissioner and gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Fried hosts climate conference in Orlando

Orlando is among fewer than a dozen local governments across Florida to commit to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Photo by Amy Green
Orlando is among fewer than a dozen local governments across Florida to commit to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Photo by Amy Green

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried was in Orlando on Tuesday to host a state summit on energy and climate. 

The three-day summit drew a diversity of state and local leaders for discussions on energy efficiency, agriculture, transportation, jobs, resilience and more. 

Fried touted legislation pushed by Democrats aimed at stemming Florida’s reliance on fossil fuels. She anticipated support, although similar bills in past sessions have failed to advance.  

“I am very hopeful that the leadership in the Legislature, that the people that are there are hearing their constituents. Because their constituents want this. They want to make sure that not only are we moving our state forward on energy efficiency. But this is creating jobs.” 

Fried is one of several Democrats challenging Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, in the 2022 gubernatorial race.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said SunRail, the commuter rail system, is a strong candidate for expansion funding under the newly signed $1 trillion dollar infrastructure plan. 

That plan was signed into law Monday. It’s aimed at delivering an infusion of cash for roads, bridges, ports and more.  

“I've been saying ever since SunRail started rolling that we have to get to the airport. So that's certainly the next step. But if you do go to the airport, you go from just a commuter rail system to a system that needs to operate seven days a week and more frequently.” 

Dyer and Fried touted President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan as a means of stemming Florida’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the space agency is considering establishing what he described as a “mission control” for climate change. 

Nelson characterized the effort as a clearinghouse of sorts for NASA data on warming temperatures and rising seas. 

He said the goal would be to make that data more accessible to policymakers and the public.

NASA requested $2.2 billion in its next budget for Earth observation, an increase of 12% that would support funding new satellites to track changes in global temperature. 

Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.