Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced this week that his state plans to be a climate change leader.
“As the federal government abdicates its role on this important issue, it is critical for states to fill the void,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “Beginning today, Virginia will lead the way to cut carbon and lean in on the clean energy future.”
Under the Paris climate accord, the US committed to reduce emissions by 26-28% below the 2005 level in 2025.
After President Trump was elected, that relatively modest goal became endangered, as his administration set about unraveling the regulations that would make such a reduction possible.
But now states across the US are strengthening their own climate change commitments. Collectively, they could make the country-wide goal of 28% achievable.
At the heart of the US’s Paris climate accord commitment was the Clean Power Plan, a regulation that would primarily phase out coal power plants.
McAuliffe’s new plan is to essentially figure out how the state can comport with the Clean Power Plan even if it isn’t enacted on the federal level.
A working group is being convened to recommend methods for reducing carbon emissions and accelerating Virginia’s renewable energy economy. The plan is meant to be “trading-ready” so that Virginia can take part in cap-and-trade programs and other schemes with other states.
“There are currently thousands of Virginians employed in the renewable energy sector, with close to 200 solar energy companies alone,” said Danny Van Clief, Chief Commercial Officer of Coronal Energy, in a statement. “Governor McAuliffe’s action today serves as an important call to re-double our efforts to work with our utility, corporate, and municipal partners to expand the clean, affordable, and reliable electric grid of the 21st century.”
Virginia has already made important strides to transform its economy.
The state is second in the southeast and ninth in the country for yearly solar energy growth, and its corporate sector has embraced the project of developing clean energy, according to The Solar Foundation.
Statewide clean energy revenues have risen from $300 million to $1.5 billion between 2014 and 2016 and twice as many Virginians work in solar as they do in coal, according to the governor’s press release.
Virginia faces the added pressure of coastal erosion, which could cost the state $100 billion in lost property value in the years ahead, and diminishing water quality as saltwater intrudes on water sources, according to the government.
Virginia isn’t alone in its embrace of clean energy.
California is aiming to cut emissions by 50% in 2030 from 2005 levels. New York is aiming to cut emissions by 40% in that time frame. Texas, meanwhile, generates more wind power than the next three states combined, which shows that renewable energy has bipartisan appeal.
Taken together, the efforts found throughout the US show the state power is still a formidable force and can guide the country toward a renewable future.
“The threat of climate change is real, and we have a shared responsibility to confront it,” McAuliffe said.