The past few months have laid bare before us some of the dramatic effects of the changing climate conditions in which we live. The intense storm events, devastating floods and hot, extended summers that continue to impact our community make it clear we need to plan for the future. The pressing question is how each of our communities, individually and collectively, do that, accounting for the changes already underway and taking steps to reduce, mitigate and adapt to their impacts. As PEC works with local and regional partners, we continue to integrate the changing climate into our long-range planning and are helping ensure that our communities and growth areas are prepared with strategies to respond.
In August, we were proud to serve as a lead sponsor of the 2021 Resilient Virginia Conference, which focused on tools to aid communities in the face of climate change challenges. We are also working, alongside Resilient Virginia,
with Albemarle County’s climate change team on an assessment of climate-related risks and vulnerabilities in the county. This analysis, scheduled to be published in late November, will provide a model for how localities can examine climate impacts in their communities and begin to incorporate necessary changes both for carbon reduction and for adaptation to our changing situation.
PEC remains focused on the continued protection of the Piedmont’s open spaces, abundant water and natural resources. The implementation of evolving land management practices for farming and forestry can amplify climate benefits while also protecting farm families’ livelihoods and our rural lands in the process. Farming and forestry are Virginia’s top economic sector; our prime soils and relative annual precipitation make prospects for the future very positive. Loss of these industries and the lands that sustain them to sprawling industrial and residential development reduces the ecosystem services these lands provide, including those related to climate resiliency.
Recognizing the importance of actively cutting carbon emissions in this region, we are stepping up our longstanding advocacy for transportation reform to help reduce Virginia’s largest source of energy consumption and carbon emissions. We must ensure transportation investments and planning efforts limit sprawl and support walkable/livable community design.
We are also working with partners to reduce per capita energy consumption and decarbonize the energy sector. How we accomplish the task matters. A focus on energy-efficient buildings (insulation, lighting and appliances) can substantially reduce energy demand. In addition, PEC believes in empowering communities, residents, and businesses to become an active part of the solution through rooftop solar. For larger utility-scale solar projects, the focus should be on disturbed sites such as brownfields, industrial centers and marginal lands, preserving lands of high conservation value (forests, prime agricultural soils, habitat, etc.) where and when possible. The responsible path forward is one that minimizes impacts to lands and resources that offer significant environmental and climate benefits as we pursue a carbon-free energy future.
As always, the problem is vast and the solutions complex. But our communities are strong, and your continued investment in PEC makes it possible for us to serve as an advocate for the Piedmont as we rise to the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Chris Miller, President
This letter appeared in The Piedmont Environmental Council’s member newsletter, The Piedmont View. If you’d like to become a PEC member or renew your membership, please visit pecva.org/join.