The Wolf Administration has set climate change in its sights and is preparing to combat the issue. The plan of attack was disclosed in the Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan, offering 18 recommendations to lower greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.
The Climate Action Plan is a product of the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act of 2008, which created the Climate Change Advisory Committee (CCAC), and required the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to work with the new committee to create an action plan for the governor. The 2008 act specifically tasks the two bodies with “providing for a report on potential climate change impacts and economic opportunities for this Commonwealth.”
The 278-page plan comprehensively discusses the current state of the climate in Pennsylvania, examines current trends in greenhouse gas emissions, and finally, lays out recommendations for the future.
According to the plan, Pennsylvania’s average temperature has risen by approximately two degrees Fahrenheit from 1990 figures, and will only continue to increase “unless we lower greenhouse gas emissions." If Pennsylvania were not to act, the plan projects that by approximately 2050 the Commonwealth’s average temperature will rise 5.9 degrees Fahrenheit, increase the number of days with temperatures over 90 degrees from five annually to about five to eight weeks annually, lead to an eight percent increase in droughts, and increase the intensity and regularity of “extreme weather events.”
Current trends of greenhouse gas emissions in the state are down from 2005 levels, including from electricity generation, residential and commercial fuel use, and the transportation sector. However, there has been an increase in emissions from mining and oil and gas operations.
The 18 strategies listed are divided into three categories by implementation date: five-year, 10-year, and 10-plus years. Strategies to be implemented within five years include updating building codes for energy efficiency, improving residential and commercial energy efficiency, increasing distributed power generation such as residential solar, and incentivizing the use of distributed combined heat and power systems.
Within 10 years, the recommendations include incentivizing the total electrification of buildings, implementing a low-carbon fuel standard for transportation, reducing fugitive emissions from oil and gas development, and increasing the capture of bio-ethane from “non-fossil” sources such as landfill gas and animal manure. There are two strategies listed for the 10-year-plus implementation time frame. First is to implement a “multi-state Memorandum of Understanding” making all medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales net zero emissions by 2050, and second to “establish a carbon emissions-free grid.” The plan also discusses actions such as joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) as a crucial piece to the entire Climate Action Plan.
While much of what the plan discusses will likely be implemented in the real world, such as joining RGGI, many of the recommendations would require legislative action to be enforced. Whether the state legislature is willing to tackle these issues will determine if the state can meet these climate goals.