‘The goal is to act now’: state officials detail Pa.’s 2021 Climate Action Plan

The plan builds on six areas of impact noted in the 2021 Climate Change Impacts Assessment

By: - September 22, 2021 4:39 pm

Since 1900, Pennsylvania has seen a 1.8-degree increase in its average temperature. 

That seemingly small number, triggering a cascade of other changes in the commonwealth from record flooding and severe weather to changes in wildlife and ecosystems, isn’t going to address itself, concerned state officials have warned. 

In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, the secretaries of several state agencies shared the 2021 Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan and called for statewide action to combat the effects of climate change. 

The 278-page document recommends, among other things, increasing energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings and expanding alternative energy requirements for energy producers and distributors.

“The challenge of slowing down climate change and adapting to impacts that are already happening can seem overwhelming,” Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell said. “Where to start?”

The 2021 climate action plan, McDonnell said, is the starting point to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and curbing the effects of climate change statewide. 

Detailing the historic flooding and severe weather brought by Hurricane Ida late last month, Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian noted that nearly 30 million gallons of water were removed from Philadelphia roadways following the storm, and 800 Pennsylvania bridges are still in need of post-flood inspections. 

 “Only a few weeks ago, the remnants of Ida dumped rain on Pennsylvania for nearly 24 hours, as well as high winds and even tornadoes, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in damage at over 1,200 locations around the state,” Gramian said Wednesday, adding that the severe weather is a threat to the Keystone state’s transportation infrastructure, which includes more than 120,000 linear miles of highway, leading to large East Coast cities such as Philadelphia, New York, and Washington D.C.

Another concern shared by state officials is the potential increase in invasive species in Pennsylvania as climate change alters the commonwealth’s ecosystems. 

In a meeting late last month, state officials detailed the impact of invasive pests such as the Spotted Lanternfly and Gypsy Moth. 

State officials throw their support behind ‘collaborative’ efforts to combat invasive species

“From the stresses of intense, prolonged heat; to severe flooding that destroys crops, eroding soil and polluting our waterways; to an environment that is more hospitable to invasive species, climate change threatens our food supply and impacts our lives and livelihoods,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. 

The plan, which shows that Pennsylvania lowered its greenhouse gas emissions 19 percent from 2005 levels, builds on six areas of impact noted in the 2021 Climate Change Impacts Assessment, a report the DEP produces every three years, and offers solutions to manage the effects of climate change, and help communities disproportionately affected by it, the department said. 

Facing grim climate projections, state officials call for multi-dimensional approach to addressing climate change

“The good news is, we’ve made a start. The even better news is, there are [a] number of tools at hand that can quickly boost our progress,” McDonnell said Wednesday. 

It also suggests increasing energy efficient standards for commercial buildings, joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), upping Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, which require electricity generators to get more of their energy from renewable sources, and utilizing more electric vehicles as tools to combat climate change. 

“We can drive renewable energy production going forward,” McDonnell said, calling to mind Pennsylvania’s history as an energy producer. “The rest of the world cannot do this without the commonwealth.”

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.