New NRDC Issue Brief: Best way Virginia can fight climate change, beat EPA emissions targets by 20 percent
With climate change already damaging Virginia’s economy, endangering citizens’ health, and threatening coastal cities, a new issue brief shows that if the Old Dominion were to meet its already existing voluntary energy goals, the state would actually beat the carbon emission targets in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan by 20 percent.
The brief also shows Virginia has a tremendous economic opportunity in fighting climate change, which could create 5,600 new jobs in 2020 alone by crafting a strong state plan to meet new federal carbon pollution standards that invests in clean energy, expands energy efficiency, and develops a cleaner, 21st century economy.
“Virginians can’t wait any longer to combat climate change, which is polluting our air and endangering our health,” said Walton Shepherd, Staff Attorney at NRDC. “We can create a new Virginia economy simply by cutting our carbon pollution. It’s time we create new jobs, protect our children’s health, and curb climate change by increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy.”
Virginia is already suffering from the extreme weather linked to climate change. In 2012 alone, Virginians paid $1,079 per taxpayer in federal taxes to clean up from extreme weather events, according to the brief. Sea level rise could damage the state’s coastal cities, possibly rendering the homes of more than 35,000 families uninhabitable by the end of the century. And Lyme disease cases in Virginia doubled between 2006 and 2007 due to rising temperatures that have expanded tick habitat.
Fortunately, Virginia can easily meet the carbon emissions limits set forth in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan thanks to its potential to harness renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The state’s potential to harness these renewable sources of energy makes Virginia well positioned to meet the new carbon emissions standards set forth in the Clean Power Plan, which would, on a national basis:
- Reduce carbon dioxide pollution from fossil-fuel power plants nationwide by about 550 million metric tons;
- Prevent thousands of premature deaths related to climate change-related health problems—such as asthma, heat stroke, and kidney failure;
- And create an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion of nationwide economic benefit in the year 2030, according to an EPA analysis.
“The facts are clear,” Shepherd said. “Cleaner energy is Virginia’s future, because it’s already here: the state is 80 percent of the way to its pollution reduction goal under the Clean Power Plan, and the remaining 20 percent will spark a durable, clean energy economy so Virginia can create new jobs as it cleans up the air and protects Virginians’ health.”
In addition to the issue brief, PJM—the operator of the world’s largest electricity market, which includes Virginia—recently released an analysis concluding that Virginia can generate net revenue from the Clean Power Plan by 2020 through a market-based allowance-trading program among PJM states. In such a regional plan, Virginia could efficiently reduce its carbon pollution and then sell pollution “allowances” to neighboring states that have more pollution to reduce, generating revenue for the Commonwealth.
More in-depth findings of the brief include:
- Since 2005, changes in the nation’s power supply and Virginia policies have already resulted in a 15 percent reduction in carbon pollution from power plants.
- Virginia spent almost $1.3 billion in 2012 to import coal and gas to burn in aging fossil fuel power plants.
- Investments in cost effective energy efficiency could save Virginia businesses $531 million in 2020 alone.
To read the full state issue brief, please click here.