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Louisiana climate plan aims to lower emissions, boost renewable energy   

Louisiana’s ambitious climate action initiative took center stage at a monthly meeting focused on the coastal state’s land loss issues.

BATON ROUGE, La. (CN) — A Louisiana climate plan with the ambitious aim of slashing greenhouse gas emissions statewide to net zero by 2050 was presented Wednesday at the monthly Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority meeting in Baton Rouge.

The sweeping, 177-page plan, unanimously approved at the end of last month by a state task force, is the first of its kind in the Deep South and also includes conservation efforts and a goal of increasing offshore wind power over the next decade.    

Lindsay Cooper, project manager for Democratic Governor John Bel Edward’s Climate Action Plan, told the coastal authority Wednesday that “that there are a lot of risks for not acting on climate action,” including increased flooding and environmental transformation. Greenhouse gas emissions drive up global temperatures, which raises the sea level and causes other problems like extreme weather and air pollution.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority – known as CPRA – meets monthly to address issues of coastal erosion and coastal projects that have been undertaken with state and federal funds, including money from the settlement with BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Touching on a federal report released Tuesday that predicts a century’s worth of sea level rise over the next 30 years, Cooper said that for all the challenges the state has had, sea level rise hasn’t been a primary one – yet.

“Sea level rise in the past hasn’t been a big issue but will be going forward,” Cooper said. She noted that a higher sea level leads to land loss, which in turn leads to flood damages, among many other issues.  

The Louisiana Climate Action Plan contains 28 “high-level” strategies and 84 actions to reduce pollution from the state’s $260 billion economy and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Cooper said that the among the state’s goals for combatting climate change are preservation and maximization of wetlands, agricultural lands, and urban green spaces. She said an aggressive approach to the action plan is essential.

The plan was crafted by a diverse 22-member Climate Initiatives Task Force created in 2020 by Edwards and whose members, appointed by the governor, include academics, climate activists, government officials and industry leaders. The task force is supported by six working groups and 150 stakeholders.

“While creating consensus around these strategies was not always easy,” Edwards said of the task force, “they ultimately chose action over inaction.”

“Just as we have done with coastal protection and restoration, we are building and inclusive, science-driven process to lead us to solutions to an incredibly complex and difficult problem,” the governor said. “By engaging stakeholders from all sides of this issue in the development of these policies, we will take a comprehensive look at how to best meet the challenges of the future.”

Louisiana's greenhouse gas emissions vary greatly from the national average. Industry generates 66% of total emissions in the state, compared to 17% nationwide, due to the dominance of chemicals, natural gas and oil production and refining across the state. Transportation and electricity make up just 19% and 13% of Louisiana's emissions, respectively, significantly lower than the national averages of about 35% each. The climate plan calls the unique profile "a significant challenge" for cutting emissions.

In addition to lowering statewide emissions to net zero by 2050, the plan also calls for a 30% increase in electric grid infrastructure by 2030 and 5 gigawatts of offshore wind power generation by 2035.

“This goal requires strategic collaboration across Louisiana state agencies and the federal government, transmission planning agencies, energy regulators, utilities, and the private sector to take additional steps to advance the development of offshore wind power generation,” the plan states.

Louisiana is only one of two southern states – the other being North Carolina – to set a goal to be 100% carbon neutral. Louisiana is also considering establishing a clean or renewable standard for electric utilities, according to the plan.

Of course, the proposals aren’t final.  

“As hard as it was to develop this plan,” Edwards said, “the real work comes with its implementation.”

Cooper said in an email Wednesday afternoon that the governor “has given every indication of his commitment to implement this plan over the next two years of his last term.”

“As I mentioned, immediate and aggressive implementation is key to attaining net zero by 2050, so the climate task force will continue to meet to chart implementation, provide a forum for public engagement and oversight, and identify opportunities to increase effectiveness of action implementation,” she said.

The first implementation meeting is set for March 9 at the state Capitol, where Edwards will speak to his next steps toward implementation before a task force discussion on the subject.

Recognized as one of the most vulnerable states in the nation to sea-level rise and other effects of climate change, Louisiana is also the third-largest natural gas producer in the country and ranks fifth among states in carbon dioxide emissions, more than half of which comes from heavy industries.

Although the climate plan was unanimously approved, some members of the task force opposed specific proposed initiatives. Environmental justice advocates, for instance, have expressed concern over policies to incentivize carbon capture at industrial facilities.

Meanwhile, industry representatives on the task force opposed the proposal of net-zero emissions and the establishment of industrywide standards for energy efficiency.

“Efficiency enhancements through advancements in technology will be critical to reaching industry’s net zero goals,” Tyler Gray wrote on behalf of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association in his dissent on that item. “This market (specifically profitability and the will of shareholders) is the most powerful driver for efficiency across industry, as opposed to mandates.”

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