A tale of three states: Climate change planning

    Delaware Gov. Jack Mark Markell announced Monday a new state climate change framework, officially setting a 30 percent greenhouse gas reduction goal by 2030 from 2008 levels and establishing more than 150 climate change adaptation recommendations.

    Meanwhile, state representatives in Pennsylvania were laboring to start a conversation about climate change at a committee hearing in Harrisburg.

    The contrast exemplifies the way the three states in the region – Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey – differ on climate change policy.

    In Pennsylvania, former Gov. Tom Corbett shied away from discussing climate change. Progress was limited on goals set in a change adaptation plan, established in 2011 under Gov. Ed Rendell, and there was no state-level push to set carbon reduction goals.

    State Rep. Greg Vitali, who convened the climate change hearing in Harrisburg, hopes that soon will change.

    “We have a new administration with Gov. Wolf, we have a new Legislature, so it’s a new chance to take a look at this issue,” Vitali said in his introductory remarks at the hearing. “So the real focus of this hearing is what should we be doing as a state to combat climate change.”

    As he campaigned,  Wolf pledged to set “meaningful” emission reduction targets for greenhouse gasses and acknowledged that humans are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Environmental activists will be watching the governor’s budget address Tuesday to see if, and how, climate change mitigation, including methane gas regulation, are referenced. 

    Following Delaware’s announcement, New Jersey and Rhode Island remain the only Northeast seaboard states left without a climate adaptation plan.

    Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabine Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, said the difference between Delaware and its coastal neighbor to the north is largely political.

    “Both Delaware and New Jersey are highly vulnerable to climate change, we saw that with Hurricane Sandy,” Gerrard said. “I would say that politics has more to do with state policy than geography. Florida is one of the most climate-vulnerable states, and yet the state government has not at all been vigorous in protecting against climate change.”

    Delaware is a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Gov. Chris Christie ended New Jersey’s participation in the initiative, and Pennsylvania was never part of it.

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