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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    Report Document No. 19

    Document Title
    Governor’s Commission on Climate Change Final Report: A Climate Change Action Plan - December 15, 2008

    Governor's Commission on Climate Change

    Enabling Authority
    Executive Order 59 (2007)

    Executive Summary
    In September 2007, Governor Timothy M. Kaine released the Virginia Energy Plan, an implementation document designed to demonstrate how the General Assembly-enacted state energy policy (SB-262; Code of Virginia 67-100) could be executed. Included in the Virginia Energy Plan was the recommendation that the Governor create a commission to address climate change and its possible impacts on Virginia.

    Governor Kaine responded by issuing Executive Order 59 (2007), establishing the “Governor’s Commission on Climate Change.” E.O.59 charged the Commission to create a Climate Change Action Plan that would do the following:

    1. Inventory the amount of and contributors to Virginia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and projections through 2025;

    2. Evaluate expected impacts of climate change on Virginia’s natural resources, the health of its citizens, and the economy, including the industries of agriculture, forestry, tourism, and insurance;

    3. Identify what Virginia needs to do to prepare for the likely consequences of climate change;

    4. Identify the actions (beyond those identified in the Energy Plan) that need to be taken to achieve the 30% reduction goal; and

    5. Identify climate change approaches being pursued by other states, regions, and the federal government.

    The Commission was comprised of more than 40 citizens of the Commonwealth, including scientists, economists, environmental advocates, and representatives from the energy, transportation, building, and manufacturing sectors. The Commission also included local government representatives and state lawmakers. The panel’s members were broadly expert and philosophically diverse. The membership of the Commission is listed in Appendix A.

    The Commission met in full 10 times over the course of 2008, starting in February and ending in December, when this Final Report was adopted. Meetings were held across the Commonwealth, often at the state’s universities, which generally had facilities that could accommodate the anticipated number of interested citizens who would follow the Commission’s work and want to offer comment.

    The Commission’s work was supported by professionals from the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Department of Forestry. Other experts from various state institutions of higher education, especially Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, were called upon for advice or analysis.

    The time committed to assessing climate change’s possible impacts on Virginia, and developing strategies to mitigate and combat those impacts, by the Commission members and staff from many state agencies totaled nearly 2,000 hours. The work of the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change represents the first comprehensive global warming climate change initiative undertaken by the Commonwealth to date.

    Over a six-month period, the Commission heard testimony from a variety of experts on climate change and its impacts on the Commonwealth’s natural resources, economy, and public health. The Commission also heard from those knowledgeable on emerging technologies and alternative fuels that represent both strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as opportunities for inventors and investors.

    The Commission issued an Interim Report in September 2008. The Interim Report provided an overview of the expert testimony presented to the Commission at the time of its writing. The Interim Report neither attempted to interpret testimony presented to the Commission nor draw any conclusions from testimony. Rather, the Interim Report sought to be an objective, “straight reporting” of the Commission’s work to date. The Interim Report can be found in its entirety in Appendix B of this report.

    Following the Commission’s six months of foundational testimony, it deliberated over a set of findings: conclusions that the Commission had collectively drawn from the information it had gathered. The findings are contained in section III of this report.

    To begin its consideration of possible recommendations, the Commission broke into four workgroups:

    • Adaptation and Sequestration
    • Built Environment
    • Electric Generation and Other Stationary Sources
    • Transportation and Land Use.

    These workgroups were comprised of Commission members who had expertise relevant to the subject matter each workgroup was charged with studying. Each workgroup met several times, and each workgroup meeting ranged from three to five hours. A public comment period was held at each workgroup meeting, just as it was at each full Commission meeting. The workgroups developed reports explaining their recommendations; these reports were presented to the full Commission and are summarized in section V B of this report. The workgroups were the source of most of the more than 150 recommendation that the full Commission debated, accepted, amended, deleted, and/or adopted.

    The final list of recommendations, as adopted by the full Commission, is provided in section IV of this report. The list of recommendations is divided into two groups. The first group consists of those recommendations that affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This first group of recommendations thus addresses directly the Commission’s fourth charge as outlined in Executive Order 59: Identify the actions (beyond those identified in the Energy Plan) that need to be taken to achieve the 30% reduction goal. After the first group of recommendations, the report provides estimates of the GHG reductions that will result from certain recommendations, as well as a discussion regarding the cost effectiveness of such recommendations. The second group of recommendations consists of strategies that will guide Virginia’s response to climate change, including how the state should plan for and adapt to changes that are likely unavoidable. This second group addresses directly the Commission’s third charge as outlined in Executive Order 59: Identify what Virginia needs to do to prepare for the likely consequences of climate change.

    The time and energy put into the Commission’s work has been considerable. Every effort was made to meet the Commission’s charge as set forth in E.O. 59. The Commission’s findings are clear. The Commission’s recommendations themselves are numerous, some being general and flexible where necessary and others being much more specific.

    The Commission appreciates Governor Kaine’s decision to create this panel and charge it with conducting as in-depth an assessment as possible on climate change’s impact on Virginia. We urge the Governor to act quickly on those recommendations with which he concurs and for which no other approval is required. We further ask the Governor to direct all agency heads to review the Commission’s final report and immediately implement those for which sufficient authority and appropriations exist. A number of recommendations are significant and will require approval by the General Assembly. Legislation should be prepared for all significant recommendations for which executive branch authority does not exist.

    The Commission further appreciates – and truly values – the great amount of input provided by the hundreds of citizens who routinely attended the panel’s meetings or otherwise submitted comments for the public record. We hope this report provides significant value and insight to all who read it.