Northam Signs Climate Change Executive Order

Nov 5, 2018

During the past 20 years, Virginia has experienced a 250 percent increase in federally declared disasters. Citing those statistics and damage across the state from recent hurricanes, Governor Ralph Northam on Friday signed an executive order to protect state-owned assets and the economy by reducing the impacts of climate change such as tidal and storm surge flooding in coastal Virginia.

The order was signed at the end of William & Mary's Virginia Coastal Policy Center conference on “Building a Resilient Virginia.” And while it requires all state-run programs have plans to limit impacts of all natural hazards including wildfire, and earthquake, it is flooding that took precedence during the announcement.

Governor Ralph Northam signs the executive order.
Credit Pamela D'Angelo

"Whether you live in an urban neighborhood in Hampton Roads, Danville, or on a farm overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, two things hold true. First, these problems are not going away. And second, unless we take decisive action, they will only continue to get worse," Northam predicted.

But holding back the effects of a global warming with flood control projects and land conservation initiatives is expensive. Panelists from Louisiana said the price tag in their state is some $50 billion. Along with seeking federal funds, the governor said he is looking at state resources including the potential to tap into its pending membership into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, a multi-state market-based cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by power plants.

"The way it's set up in Virginia right now, the money that would come back from that goes to our energy producers," Northam said. "We want to change that so the money would come back to the state and in this case we would use that money for this resilience program."

Click here to read the executive order

Eleven U. S. states use market-based approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists say Carbon emissions are tied to global warming that could cause Atlantic hurricanes in the coming century to have higher rainfall rates and potentially become more intense.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.