Albemarle County has officially adopted goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and to be “net zero” by 2050.
On Wednesday, the county Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution to establish community-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, and will use the county’s 2008 greenhouse gas inventory as a baseline.
Albemarle is in the process of developing the first phase of a Climate Action Plan, which will include identifying goals and strategies to achieve reductions.
In 2011, the board voted to end the county’s membership in the Cool Counties initiative, which had committed the county to a non-binding goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. That same year, the board also withdrew from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an organization focused on sustainable development issues.
Last month, the board approved rejoining International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, which is now formally known as ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. Membership costs $1,750 a year, and will give the county access to ClearPath, an online greenhouse gas emissions inventory software platform. Non-members can use the software for $7,500 annually.
County staff previously completed greenhouse gas inventories for the years 2000, 2006 and 2008.
Supervisor Ann Mallek said she was grateful to have support from the community for these goals, and the continued support since 2011.
“I think small steps are what we need, because it helps to get more people to support things than dramatic big steps that scare everybody away,” she said.
Board Chair Ned Gallaway said it made sense to have these goals, whether or not the world is in a climate crisis.
“I don’t wait till I’m in a health crisis, hopefully, to do things that promote my own health,” he said. “It just seems to me that this is something that should be done because it makes good sense to do, and there [are] positive outcomes from it.”
When tax dollars are spent on the actionable goal in the future, Gallaway said, he wants transparency and accountability of how that money is spent and the outcomes.
Multiple community members spoke in support of the goals on Wednesday.
Andrea Bostrom, residential program manager for the Charlottesville Climate Collaborative, said the county also needs investment in renewable energy and energy efficiencies in order to make them more accessible to a wider range of households, promotion of public and private led initiatives to help increase public awareness around climate change and data.
“We need an emissions inventory at least every two years to mark our progress,” she said. “Numbers are empowering. Numbers are authentic, and numbers have the ability to be inspiring. So I urge you today to make a numerical commitment to reducing the county’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
Richard Fox, a local farmer, said he was glad that the county was making an effort to find out how to be the best stewards of the environment and the climate in the community, but he wanted the county to be aware of unintended consequences.
“Farmers are concerned we’re going to wind up like California — you guys are going to be coming out and you’re going to be breaking our blocks for our tractors that don’t meet tier four compliance requirements, or that, heaven forbid, there’s taxes on cattle, or we start talking about different types of organic fertilizers, things like that,” he said.
Only Dr. Charles Battig, a retired physician and policy advisor for the Heartland Institute, a conservative and libertarian public policy think tank, spoke against the reduction targets and climate action planning in general.
“No county officials have provided any scientific evidence of a specific change in the climate or result from a specific county climate plan,” he said.