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Report: Virginia leadership critical foundation for an international agreement on climate

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Arlington, VA – Virginia is gearing up to play a major role in U.S. progress to address climate change, a new report said today. In the next decade, the state will cut as much global warming pollution as 22 billion tons of coal burned annually.

The Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center report comes as pressure mounts on the U.S. to play a leading role in negotiations for an international climate agreement in Paris.

“The best way to lead is by example,” said Nicole Guilfoyle, Global Warming Solutions Organizer with Environment Virginia. “With Virginia’s help, that’s exactly what the US is poised to do.”

The analysis, Path to the Paris Climate Conference, documents expected carbon pollution reductions from existing state-level and federal policies by 2025, including renewable energy standards, fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, and regional and state-based carbon caps. Solar can power Virginia 18 times over, and that resource will be expanded under the Governor’s state energy plan.

The report shows that state and federal policies underway across the country can reduce carbon pollution 27 percent below 2005 levels.

The biggest slice of these reductions will come from the Clean Power Plan, the proposed federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants expected to be finalized this summer. The plan requires an 38% percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in Virginia, and compels state leaders to accelerate the transition to clean energy sources such as wind and solar.

However, fossil fuel interests and their allies in Congress are trying to block the Clean Power Plan, with the House voting as recently as last week to derail it.

“Unfortunately, leaders in the halls of power such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Polluter allies in Congress have recently tried to derail the Clean Power Plan in our recent appropriations bill,” said Guilfoyle. “That’s why we’re grateful to leaders such as State Senator Barbara Favola, Congressman Donald Beyer and Senator Tim Kaine, who continue to defend the Clean Power Plan against attack, and raise the bar on climate action. I urge Senator Mark Warner to join them in their efforts.”

“What some people don’t know is the day to day Virginian would benefit immensely from such policies. For Example, the Clean Power Plan will give Virginians benefits such as adding over 200,000 new jobs in our Commonwealth,” said State Senator Barbara Favola. State Senator Favola highlighted how it is necessary for Virginia businesses to remain competitive. On the Clean Power Plan, Senator Favola states, “Ladies and Gentlemen I think this plan is a plan for our future. This is a plan for a healthier Virginia. This is a plan for a brighter Virginia.”

“I’d like to point out that Virginia has enough cost-effective renewable energy resources to meet 127% of its energy needs,” said Scott Sklar, President of The Stella Group, a business specializing in clean energy. Mr. Sklar stated that “There are at least 80 companies in Virginia that provide services and equipment in the energy efficiency and renewable energy field,” and that there is ample opportunity to utilize these industries in the Commonwealth. Mr. Sklar also noted that the cost effectiveness, energy efficiency, and job opportunity in these industries has enormous potential, and Virginians must capitalize on these incredible resources.

To avoid devastating impacts of climate change, scientists estimate that an 80 percent cut in global warming pollution will be necessary by mid-century. As the report notes, a more rapid transition to clean energy sources, beyond those already required by existing policies, will be required to achieve these levels.

“Virginia is poised to play a major role in American progress to cut global warming pollution,” said Guilfoyle. “We must build on that progress to ensure a better, healthier future for our climate and our children.”

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