City begins work on ambitious climate action goal

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Earlier this month, the Charlottesville City Council unanimously approved an ambitious climate action goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030. The next step is figuring out how to meet that goal.

"Climate change isn't going away, and it's not something that we can escape," said Susan Elliott, the city’s climate protection program manager.

She says the city's goal, the most ambitious of any locality in the state, matches the recommendation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which released an alarming report in October.

"What that report gave was specific numbers and specific recommendations of what types of reduction levels were going to be needed to try to keep warming at only 1.5 degrees [Celsius],” Elliott said. The city's longer term goal is carbon neutrality by 2050.

The city last conducted a greenhouse gas inventory in 2016. It measured greenhouse gas emissions in residential, commercial and transportation categories, and there was some good news. Emissions in the city were already 21 percent lower than in 2011. That means a further 24 percent reduction is needed to meet the 10-year goal.

"Now that we have our new target, we need to start developing what our action plan is to reach that," Elliott said.

She says the city has actively solicited community feedback and is collaborating with area nonprofits to come up with the action plan. And she says there are steps people can take now to improve their energy use.

As a place to start, she says the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) offers home energy assessments for $45. And the Charlottesville Climate Collaborative (C3) offers free home energy or better business challenges to support climate action.

"It gives a good grounding for people of the wide varieties of types of actions," Elliott said.

C3 spokesperson Teri Kent says the city's bold climate goal sends a strong message.

"That we are willing to lead on this issue,” she said. “And when I talk about we, it's not just city council, city government. It's the whole community that really will work together to achieve these goals."

And Elliott says meeting the emissions goal is critical since climate change will impact everyone.

"When we get more increased severe heat waves, that's going to increase what our energy use is,” Elliott said. “It’s going to increase how many days we have to roll up our cooling centers to offer to the community. It’s going to increase strains on the grid. It's going effect what our experience is living here."

For more information on local climate action, click on the link in the Related Links box.

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