Tackling Pennsylvania’s climate action goals with comprehensive, data-driven strategic planning
RESULTS AT A GLANCE
Pennsylvania needs to significantly cut GHG emissions and adapt to the changing climate to protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians. If GHGs are not significantly reduced, it’s expected that the state will experience an average 5.9-degree-Fahrenheit rise in temperature and a 2.1-foot sea level rise in the Delaware Estuary Zone. Meeting the state GHG reduction targets of 26% by 2025 and 80% by 2050 will require a transformational shift in how Pennsylvanians live, work, play, and do business. In addition, residents across the state rely on functioning infrastructure and a healthy environment for jobs, wellbeing, and leisure. For the nearly 30% of residents who live in environmental justice communities statewide, the consequences of climate change are the most burdensome. Increased average temperatures, heatwaves, and flooding disproportionately impact vulnerable populations.
To address these needs and follow the requirements of the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act of 2008, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) led the development of the 2021 Climate Action Plan, in collaboration with multiple state agencies and the state Climate Change Advisory Committee. Governor Tom Wolf announced Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan 2021 in September of 2021, which identifies 18 strategies to meet the state’s GHG emissions reduction goals. It also presents ways for Pennsylvania to adapt to the impacts of climate change over time.
Conducting strategic planning for short and long-term climate actions requires informed data analysis and modeling and an understanding of the mechanisms and actors needed to drive progress. Working closely with DEP and Pennsylvania State University and Hamel Environmental Consulting, we took two types of approaches to plan for the state’s GHG reduction and climate adaptation goals. These approaches and the plan recognize that providing options that reach all communities is a key to meeting the Commonwealth’s climate goals.
Relying on components of our decarbonization strategic planning platform CO2Sight, we worked closely with DEP and its Climate Change Advisory Committee (CCAC) to create a potential pathway to achieve the state’s GHG targets, exploring different strategies and associated reductions, costs, and economic benefits through a data-driven analytic approach. Then we applied the lens of public health and equity to assess each strategy’s impacts and mapped out initial options for implementation.
Starting with an analysis of climate risks and impacts in the 2021 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment allowed DEP, the CCAC, and our team to directly correlate climate risks to adaptation pathways—or approaches for managing climate risk over time—for the Commonwealth. Adaptation pathways outline the steps, options, and decision points involved over time while considering economic, social, and environmental outcomes. Such pathways reduce vulnerabilities and create a more resilient Pennsylvania.
CO₂Sight: Decarbonization and energy planning platform
Successful implementation of the Climate Action Plan relies on the following principles:
- Focusing on the needs of vulnerable communities and the effects of actions on equity, access, and inclusion
- Collaboration between government and stakeholders
- Monitoring and evaluation assessments of strategies
Such implementation methods improve public health, safety, and welfare; mitigate adverse impacts on traditionally marginalized communities; help to address the legacy impacts of past discrimination, racism, and environmental injustice; and ensure that all Pennsylvanians benefit from a cleaner, greener environment.
Reaching the 80% reduction target by 2050 will require implementation of all strategies analyzed, but the largest reductions are anticipated to come from:
Reduction in emissions from direct use of fuels in buildings
Compared to BAU levels
Implementation of the modeled GHG reduction strategies result in an annual average increase of about 42,000 jobs. Combined, the strategies would result in over one million cumulative job-years by 2050. To put these results in context, annual employment impacts are estimated to range from roughly 0.1% increase to slightly less than 1.0% (in 2050) increase, which averages out to about a 0.51% increase through 2050. According to another 2021 study, Pennsylvania will create a projected estimate of 243,000 net jobs annually from 2021-2030 through clean energy investments. Clean energy jobs pay more on average than the occupation’s statewide median wage and employ a more diverse labor force. High job growth rate, above average pay, and more diverse labor indicate that this clean energy transition can help improve equitable public health outcomes in Pennsylvania.
In addition to jobs, implementation of the Climate Action Plan will also lead to health and equity benefits. GHG reduction strategies have the potential to advance health and equity by improving air quality in disproportionately impacted communities, reducing energy bills in low-income households through building weatherization and strategic electrification, increasing transit options in areas with low accessibility, and much more. Similarly, adaptation pathways can improve equity by providing vulnerable communities with shelter from extreme temperatures and reducing the risk of health hazards from extreme weather events and vector-borne diseases.
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