Baton Rouge, LA (STL.News) Today, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed two executive orders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance coastal resilience.  Executive Order JBE 2020-18 formally establishes Louisiana’s first-ever Climate Initiatives Task Force, a group of stakeholders who will study and make recommendations to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions.  Executive Order JBE 2020-19 provides steps to improve state government by coordinating adaptation efforts more comprehensively across state agencies under the leadership of the state’s first Chief Resilience Officer (CRO).

“By coupling these new efforts to build resilience and address greenhouse gas emissions with our world class coastal protection and restoration program, we believe we can even more successfully confront the difficulties in store in the future and seize new opportunities to transform ourselves into a more equitable, prosperous, and sustainable state,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Looking ahead, coastal challenges will be exacerbated by climate change.  According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet and threatening human and ecological health and well-being.  Reducing greenhouse gas emissions can slow global warming and decrease the magnitude and speed of future sea level rise and enable greater opportunities for adaptation in areas like Louisiana.

The Climate Initiatives Task Force consists of representatives with diverse view points from the scientific community, state government, private sector, and civil society.  Their charge is to utilize science to develop strategies for curtailing Louisiana’s greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that fully recognizes the state’s extreme climate vulnerabilities as well as the characteristics of its energy-intensive economy.  Emissions reduction goals set for the Task Force include cuts of net greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% by 2025, 40-50% by 2030, and 100% by 2050.

“With our Coastal Master Plan, Louisiana has led the nation in adapting to environmental change,” said Chip Kline, the Governor’s Executive Assistant for Coastal Activities and Chairman of the CPRA.  “It is time we take a more proactive stance on one of the largest drivers of that change: greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Having achieved attainment for almost all of EPA’s criteria air pollutants, it’s now time for Louisiana to take the lead in addressing sea level rise and coastal subsidence through reductions in overall greenhouse gasses.  Climate change can and will affect the state’s environment, economy, agriculture and livability,” Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Chuck Carr Brown said.  “This task force will seek common sense solutions that we can all embrace.”

While Louisiana will draw on lessons learned from other states and nations engaged in reducing emissions, the state faces unique challenges and opportunities.  For instance, Louisiana is the only state where industrial sector emissions make up more than half of a state’s total emissions, but it also possesses some of the greatest potential for carbon capture and underground storage through the deployment of new technologies as well as restoration natural systems like wetlands.  Leadership in energy, industry, and coastal restoration will be crucial to Louisiana’s success in reducing emissions while maintaining and creating economic opportunities within the state.

“Louisiana has many industrial sources of carbon, which means a great potential demand for carbon management strategies, and also has deep, well-confined geologic storage options in close proximity to that industrial base, as well as some history of putting carbon to use in such operations as enhanced oil recovery,” said Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Secretary Thomas Harris.  “These factors provide a unique opportunity for our state to be both a proving ground and a leader in applying strategies that can help lessen the climate impacts of carbon in the future.”

“The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA) is honored to partner with the broad coalition that makes up the Climate Initiatives Task Force in working toward solutions to address climate change,” said Lori Leblanc, interim LMOGA president.  “Louisiana has long been a global leader in energy production, and this task force presents an opportunity to show the world that energy production and environmental stewardship go hand in hand.  Through the efforts of this task force and the actions of LMOGA members, Louisiana can become a leader in climate change solutions.”

“Louisiana’s future depends on limiting sea level rise as much as possible, and that means doing our part to limit emissions,” said Steve Cochran, campaign director of Restore the Mississippi River Delta and associate vice president at Environmental Defense Fund.  “Our state has become a model for how to successfully execute climate adaptation and coastal restoration.  This task force can also make Louisiana a model for how to effectively and equitably reduce emissions in a state with a fossil-fuel-based economy.”

The resilience work outlined in Executive Order JBE 2020-19 has been named the Adaptive Governance Initiative because it represents an effort to identify the ways in which government can adjust to significant changes in circumstances and interact more efficiently to address the long-term problem of coastal change and its impacts on Louisiana’s communities.  The work has been designed and executed through a partnership between the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities and the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX).

“This work represents an important evolution in Louisiana’s approach to coastal adaptation,” said Charles Sutcliffe, Governor’s Edwards’ CRO.  “We no longer have the luxury of reacting to problems after disaster strikes or thinking of the changing coast as the purview of only the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA).  This effort will bring every state agency’s skills and missions to the collective cause of building a healthy coast.”

“Louisiana is on the front lines of land loss and climate change, and effective state leadership is essential to ensuring that our communities have what they need to both mitigate and adapt to the impacts,” said Camille Manning-Broome, President and CEO of CPEX.  “CPEX is committed to our partnership with the state and the hard work of institutional change in order to maintain and strengthen Louisiana’s leadership and build our collective resilience amidst unprecedented changes.  Governor Edwards is taking another important step towards transforming how we proactively address climate change and adaptation.”

Secretaries from 16 different government agencies have already appointed representatives to coordinate on the Adaptive Governance Initiative. Participating agencies include the Departments of Agriculture and Forestry, Children and Family Services, Environmental Quality, Health, Insurance, Natural Resources, Public Safety and Corrections, Revenue, Transportation and Development, Veterans Affairs, Wildlife and Fisheries, the Division of Administration, Louisiana Economic Development, Louisiana Housing Corporation, Louisiana Workforce Commission and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

The Climate Initiatives Task Force will produce an update to Louisiana’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory by the end of 2020, an interim report by February of 2021, and a final Climate Strategy document by February 2022.

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