Virginia and North Carolina Vow Climate Action As U.S. Withdraws from Paris Agreement

By Zach Kopkin

On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced his intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord signed by 194 other countries.

In 2015, after six years of negotiation, President Obama signed onto the agreement, a non-binding treaty in which every country submitted its own plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid catastrophic increases in global temperatures. The accord’s formal withdrawal process takes four years to complete.

According to The Independent, a majority of people in all 50 states support the Paris climate accord.

As of mid-July, 13 states, including Virginia, had officially joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, and 359 mayors, representing over 66 million Americans and every Appalachian state except West Virginia, had joined the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda. Both groups pledge to meet the nation’s previous Paris climate accord goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent from 2005 levels.

The governors of North Carolina and Virginia have each signed the “We Are Still In” letter, agreeing “to provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment.”

In May, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued Executive Directive 11 instructing the state environmental agency to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants through a carbon cap-and-trade program. Like the Obama administration’s now-defunct Clean Power Plan, this program would set a limit on carbon emissions and create a financial incentive for power companies to find cleaner ways to produce energy.

But McAuliffe supports two proposed natural gas pipelines that would cut through the state. Methane leakage from the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines would lead to as much greenhouse gas pollution as 45 coal-fired power plants, according to an analysis by Oil Change International, an organization that exposes the costs of fossil fuels.

In North Carolina, Jill Lucas from the Division of Air Quality states that the agency’s work has been uninterrupted by the federal government’s announcement. She noted that between 2005 and 2014, total carbon dioxide emissions statewide have decreased by 18 percent. Lucas stated that DAQ will further reduce North Carolina’s carbon footprint by remediating excess nitrous oxide emissions. The remediation will be funded by a projected $92 million settlement with Volkswagen for the company’s Clean Air Act emissions violations.

In July, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper announced his opposition to offshore drilling and seismic testing for oil in state waters. Cooper also signed Executive Order 11 and House Bill 589, which aim to expand the state’s wind and solar power industries, respectively. He has not yet taken a stance regarding natural gas pipelines.


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