Gov. John Bel Edwards will address his new Climate Initiatives Task Force, which is supposed to come up with ways to reach a statewide “net zero” level of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, during its first meeting on Monday morning at the state Capitol.
The task force also will be briefed on the status of climate change by Virginia Burkett, chief scientist for climate and land use change at the U.S. Geological Survey. Burkett was appointed by Edwards as a non-voting scientific member.
In February, Edwards announced that he wanted to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% by 2025, a 40-50% reduction by 2030 and the net zero goal by 2050. In August, he issued an executive order setting up the 23-member task force, and ordered it to recommend strategies, policies and incentives by February 2022.
Those are similar to the goals set for worldwide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the 2017 Paris accords. President-elect Joe Biden has said he will recommit the U.S. to the agreement on his first day in office in January. The Paris accords aim at limiting global temperature increases to no more than 1.5 degrees, when compared to temperatures during pre-industrial times. Today, the global temperatures have already increased about 1.12 degrees from pre-industrial times, according to NOAA.
Carbon emissions increase temperatures in the atmosphere and the oceans worldwide, resulting in both the expansion of water molecules in the ocean and an increase of water volume overall due to melting ice. In Louisiana, rising sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico are becoming a greater factor in the loss of coastal wetlands and rising temperatures in the atmosphere also have resulted in more frequent rainfall events and heat waves.
Based on 2015-16 U.S. Department of Energy estimates, Louisiana is fifth among states in both total carbon emissions and emissions per-capita. Edwards has said he wants to identify ways for industry to reduce emissions from their manufacturing processes or find ways of permanently storing carbon in the ground. The state's coastal Master Plan has proposed finding ways of storing carbon through the construction of coastal restoration projects, with wetland and swamp plants capturing carbon and storing it in newly created soils.
Several industries also have announced recently that they are developing projects that would pump carbon emissions collected from oil and gas production, electricity generation or manufacturing facilities into deep salt water-filled rock layers that would permanently keep it from reaching the atmosphere.
Other potential measures include development of alternate energy production methods that either release fewer emissions or do not release greenhouse gas emissions, including solar and wind energy.
The meeting will be held in Committee Room 1 at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, and will be available on the web at the state Legislature web site.
Edwards announced the names of 22 of the 23 task force members on Friday, including the secretaries of the state departments of Environmental Quality, Natural Resources, Economic Development, Agriculture and Forestry, Transportation and Development, and the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and Division of Administration. Agency officials may substitute for the secretaries in the task force meetings.
The task force will be chaired by Chip Kline, who is the governor’s assistant for coastal activities and chairman of the CPRA. Harry Vorhoff, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities will serve as Kline's designee on the task force.
Acting as a designee for the president of the Senate will be Timothy Hardy, an attorney with Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson LLP, who was an assistant secretary of DEQ and later an adviser to former Gov. Buddy Roemer.
Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar, tribal chief of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, will serve as a representative of indigenous tribes, nations and communities.
Acting as a designee for the speaker of the state House of Representatives is Selby Bush, head of corporate affairs for BHP Petroleum.
Also serving on the task force are: