With the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world committed to taking serious action on climate change. The agreement is a monumental achievement that brings together almost every country on the planet to pursue limiting end-of-century temperature rise to two degrees Celsius or less. It brings together countries that have added tremendous amounts of carbon to the atmosphere with those that have added little; it brings together countries that are well developed and countries that are just reaping the rewards of development. It brings all these countries together in a framework that commits them to work toward the agreement’s common goal regardless of each country’s perspective as a victim, a contributor, or a neutral player.
Under the Trump Administration, the United States has announced its intention to pull out of the Paris Agreement. In response, U.S. states and cities are stepping up to ensure that the United States meets it commitments of CO2 reductions, independent of what the Trump Administration does.
The Commonwealth of Virginia made such a commitment under the leadership of Governor Terry McAuliffe by joining the United States Climate Alliance. Governor McAuliffe has followed up this commitment with action and has initiated activities through working groups and multiple state agencies to set Virginia on a path to reduced carbon emissions.
Prior to Governor McAuliffe’s actions, little was being done in Virginia to reduce Virginia’s carbon footprint. With Republicans controlling Virginia’s House and Senate, serious legislation relating to clean energy or climate change was essentially a non-starter. With the 2017 Virginia Election, Virginia’s executive branch was once again secured by Democrats and Democrat’s gained at least 15 seats in the House of Delegates to bring the split in the House to 49 Democrats to 51 Republicans. The change in legislative balance and the continuation of Democratic control of Virginia’s executive branch means that serious discussion about greening Virginia can resume, including legislative action.
The Paris Agreement sets a goal to limit temperature rise and establishes a framework for achieving that goal. The framework centers on countries reaching peak carbon within an agreed to time frame, beginning to reduce carbon thereafter, and reporting on carbon emissions on a regular basis. As things stand today, the current levels of CO2 emissions and the trajectories countries are on fall short of achieving the two degree goal.
Studies show that in order to achieve the Paris Agreement goals, the power sector must achieve zero carbon by mid-century. This is a challenging, but achievable goal that must be taken seriously on all levels. Hence, this web site, Zero Carbon Virginia, is about exploring and supporting how Virginia can be a leader in reaching a zero carbon energy economy. Through the sharing of information, analysis, and opinions, it is hoped that this important objective will be advanced.
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. – Greek Proverb