NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana’s governor has signed an executive order setting a state goal for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, drawing swift praise from environmental groups.
At least 23 other states and the District of Columbia have set greenhouse gas targets, though specifics vary, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
“The real unique part about it is this is a fossil fuel-driven state,” said Natalie Snider, senior director of coastal resilience for the Environmental Defense Fund.
Gov. John Bel Edwards laid out the state's first goal for greenhouse gases in an order creating a climate initiatives task force to include members from state government, business, environmental justice, Indian tribes, academics and other areas.
A second order signed Wednesday creates a state resilience officer and directs all state agencies to work with that person toward protecting and restoring Louisiana's vanishing coast.
The United States is among the world's biggest carbon polluters. Louisiana's ultimate and interim goals are in line with those in the Paris agreement of 2017 and those of many other states, Edwards said. He did not mention that President Donald Trump had pulled the U.S. out of the agreement.
“In many ways, Louisiana is the poster child for climate change, we are the canary in the coal mine," Edwards said during a Coastal Protection and Restoration Agency meeting livestreamed from Baton Rouge.
"We want to be the gold standard” for climate solutions, Edwards said.
He said that must include reducing emissions: “We cannot build our way out of this problem.”
But Edwards said there's also tremendous development and jobs potential in renewable energy and such techniques as restoring wetlands, where green plants will take in carbon dioxide that is emitted into the air, and creating ways to capture the gas from refineries and factories and store it in underground formations rather than letting it into the air.
“We are not turning our back on our traditional energy here in Louisiana,” Edwards said. He noted that such companies are setting their own emission goals and that Louisiana is well positioned to move from dirtier fuels to natural gas.
“At same time we have to be broader," he continued. "We have to work with these energy companies — they're not even calling themselves oil and gas companies any more ... to embrace the full range of options that are viable here in Louisiana.”
Lori Leblanc, interim president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, said in the state news release, “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.
David Muth, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf of Mexico restoration programs, said, "Setting a target for greenhouse gases is really critical. Even if we can do everything possible for the next 50 years to build and sustain wetlands, if we don’t get greenhouse gases under control ... we're going to see it all under water because sea-level rise is going to outstrip everything we can do.”
He and Snider both praised the order requiring all agencies to work together on coastal resilience.
“It's really forward-thinking and no other state has gotten to this level of governance on resilience,” Snider said.
“The risk is to the entire state — the roads, the hospitals, the schools ... So it goes across every aspect,” she said.