Universities, legislators working to meet climate action goals by 2050 or earlier

Legislators, universities share climate goes at Tom Tom Virtual Conversation

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Governor Ralph Northam’s Clean Economy Act, signed earlier this year, hopes to have the entire commonwealth switched over to 100% clean energy by 2050. In a virtual conversation with the Tom Tom Foundation, Virginia 9th District Senator Jennifer McClellan says legislators are trying to keep that promise.

“We are close to, if not at, our tipping point with climate change. It effects everything,” McClellan said.

McClellan says the act is just a starting point and can be monitored to meet the needs of individual localities. “If you’re going to win the race, you first need to build the car. And this act built the car, built the racetrack, and put the car on the racetrack. Now, we’re going to run the race. Without this bill we could never even run the race.”

The bill focuses on meeting a goal of solely using clean energy use across the commonwealth by 2050 in several different ways, from weather-proofing buildings, to installing community solar panels, to helping modernize the energy grid. McClellan said these efforts will be done with social and environmental justice, equity and efficiency in mind.

McClellan said reliance on clean and alternative energy sources could create jobs as the country recovers from the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“The two industries that I think are going to drive our economic recovery are technology and energy. Technology has driven the need for more technology, and also part of the demand for clean energy. Not only have both of those industries survived, but thrived with COVID-19," she said.

University of Virginia’s Sustainability Director Andrea Ruedy Trimble says the university is making those same efforts in conjunction with Charlottesville and Albemarle County as part of their Climate Action Together partnership. The university made a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and free of fossil fuels by 2050. As part of the partnership, Charlottesville and Albemarle County pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050. The partnership allows university and municipality leaders to track and target ways to meet those goals.

“For example, we’re looking at what is the carbon impact of adding or removing trees and we can take the information as a region and connect that to the equity indicators of trees and urban heat island effect. And then ideally, we can use it as indicators to have some influence on policy and planning as it relates to climate policy and adaptation," Trimble said.

Both Trimble and McClellan said because of increased interested in climate action, especially among younger generations.

“The social cost of carbon is to great to continue to pay. Period," McClellan said.

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