Coral Gables declares climate emergency

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.

Fridays for Future Miami has been protesting in front of Coral Gables City Hall every Friday for the past four months. (Courtesy of Emily Gonzalez)

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.

Residents along Alhambra Circle have placed signs on their lawns protesting proposed bicycle paths along the street. The Coral Gables Commission voted to cease consideration of paths at the Jan. 28 meeting. (Natalia Clement/SFMN)

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. 

Natalia Clement is a senior journalism student at FIU. She was born in Bogota, Colombia, but was raised in Miami. Her passion for journalism began in elementary school as a school news anchor and continued all the way into college. She enjoys written journalism the most, but also finds broadcasting interesting. She is the copy editor for Caplin News and also interns at Univision. Natalia looks forward to graduating in the summer. Her ultimate goal is to move to New York to pursue her career as a journalist.

Julia Tsairis is a senior broadcast journalism student at Florida International University. She was born and raised in Miami. Her passion for journalism started out very young as a simple hobby and has blossomed. In addition to her work as a journalist, she enjoys photography and videography and has won many awards for her work. She also enjoys networking in the FIU community. Julia looks forward to achieving her ultimate goal of being able to travel the world, using journalism to help expose the injustices that occur in other countries.