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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam joins coalition to address climate change in Chesapeake Bay

The new directive says teams will use cutting-edge technology to set priorities for lands and ecosystems that are at-risk to be damaged by climate change.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Author's note: the video above is on file from Sept. 30, 2021.

A team of governors and environmentalists met at the Virginia Beach Brock Environmental Center Friday morning to talk about how to combat the effects of climate change on the Chesapeake Bay.

Alongside Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a new climate change directive as part of the continued efforts to clean and restore the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

The directive, entered into by the governments of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Washington D.C. as well as other state and federal agencies like Chesapeake Bay Commission (CBC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lays out continued strategies and initiatives toward Bay restoration.  

“With action to combat climate change, our goal of a healthy Bay is under threat," Gov. Northam said. 

The representatives took a boat ride through "ground-zero" of climate change.

"The Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads region are experiencing one of the highest rates of sea-level rise and coastal flooding on the East Coast," said a spokesperson for the CBC.

More specifically than that, the new directive they agreed on says teams will use cutting-edge technologies to establish priorities for lands and ecosystems that are most at-risk to be damaged by climate change.

"I strongly believe that by working together as a region in a bipartisan way, we can and we will continue to find real, commonsense solutions to address climate change and to protect the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. "These challenges are too important to lose this opportunity to take action now."

Some of the ideas they talked about rolling out were increasing tree canopies, creating a "living shoreline" and boosting efforts to help oyster reefs.

"It will take bold, urgent actions to reach our goal of a Bay that is fully restored by 2025,” said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “Virginia commits to working diligently with our watershed partners to meet this commitment in a resilient, practical, cost-effective manner that benefits our vast waterways, our environment, and our economy."

Following the meeting, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's president issued a statement.

Once again, the Council ignored the failure of Pennsylvania to meet its commitments. Worse yet, EPA failed to hold the Commonwealth accountable, even as CBF, its partners, and the Attorneys General of Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia are suing EPA in federal court to do just that.

If the Council and EPA refuse to exert leadership, Bay restoration efforts are doomed to fail.

The Executive Council’s sole objective this year was to sign a Climate Change Directive. Sadly, that directive is only a start, taking small steps at a time when bold action is needed. 

The Climate Change Directive must do more to meet scientists’ findings. While Virginia has set a pollution-reduction goal that includes mitigating the damage from climate change, Maryland and Pennsylvania have not.

“The 2025 deadline is just around the corner. In 2016, success seemed possible. Today, hope is fading. The last 40 years of Bay restoration efforts have been littered with promises broken and commitments unmet.” 

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