Delaware Releases Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution and Prepare for Climate Change

March 4, 2015

Governor Jack Markell released a plan to combat climate change this week, calling for a 30 percent cut in carbon pollution by 2030 and outlining a framework to help the state better prepare for the future impacts of climate change.

The plan, called the Climate Framework for Delawaredescribes the actions that state agencies have already taken to reduce emissions and adapt to impacts, and outlines recommendations for future actions on both fronts.

To reach its carbon pollution reduction goal (a 30 percent emissions cut from 2008 levels), the state is considering a range of policies including energy efficiency, forestation, and universal recycling, as well as creation and adoption of transportation policies. As a next step, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control will develop an implementation plan based on the approved mitigation target. The implementation plan will be developed over the first two quarters of 2015.

The state has already taken steps to reduce emissions, which are detailed in the framework document:  

  • In 2010, Governor Markell issued Executive Order 18, which requires all executive branch agencies to reduce their environmental impacts and operating expenses;
  • Since 2005, Delaware has participated in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a market-based program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector;
  • Since 2010, the state has been an active participant in the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a regional collaboration of 12 northeast and mid-Atlantic jurisdictions that seeks to develop the clean energy economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. This initiative is facilitated by the Georgetown Climate Center.

The framework document also highlights many of the climate threats the state faces including increasing temperatures, more frequent heat waves, and increased flooding and erosion from extreme precipitation and sea-level rise and outlines actions that the state can take to prepare for the climate changes that are already underway.

The Climate Framework for Delaware details 150 recommendations on actions the state can take to address impacts to public health and safety, and infrastructure. The document also provides new “flood avoidance design guidance,” which requires the consideration of sea-level rise in the design and siting of state-funded projects.

The plan includes recommendations for preparing the state for impacts across a range of sectors: agriculture, public health, emergency response, and infrastructure. The recommendations include actions that state agencies and departments can take now with existing authorities, and actions that will require additional funding, legislation, or input from outside stakeholders.

The adaptation recommendations are organized by the 12 state agencies and departments that will be responsible for implementation.  Some key recommendations include the following:

  • Agriculture:  evaluate the state’s susceptibility to increased wildfires and develop policies for fire prevention and management; evaluate policies such as nutrient management and cropping to adapt to increasing temperatures and dry-spells.
  • Public health and social services: develop new and improved monitoring and surveillance programs to identify vector-borne, emerging climate-related diseases, and environmental hazards exacerbated by climate change; help local governments integrate consideration of heat islands and water quality impacts from climate change in land-use and infrastructure planning, building codes, and other local policies; identify sites for cooling and heating centers during extreme weather events.
  • Natural resources: incorporate climate change into land management and stewardship activities; implement restoration activities to slow the loss of coastal beaches and wetlands; expand invasive species control and detection activities; prepare for shifts in species distribution.
  • Emergency response: alter policies regarding worker safety to prepare for increased temperatures; develop operational plans to ensure that critical state facilities can withstand future sea-level rise and flooding; ensure preparedness of especially vulnerable sites (e.g. sites with underground utilities or storage tanks).
  • Transportation: assess at-risk roadways, bridges and other infrastructure assets; integrate climate resiliency into project design including  assessing the risks to facilities from sea-level rise, increased flooding, extreme heat and cold; reevaluate stormwater management approaches to retain more stormwater onsite and enhance groundwater recharge; explore new pavement technologies; evaluate insurance mechanisms to provide necessary funds to help the state recover from catastrophic flooding and damage to roadways and bridges; reevaluate evacuation routes and evacuation protocols; support local integration of climate change into comprehensive land-use plans; ensure that 10% of the state fleet is low-emission vehicles by 2020.
  • Economic development: target growth in the areas of communities that are most resilient to long-term climate impacts; educate businesses and industries on the risks of climate change in their communities; reduce development of greenfields and encourage reuse of contaminated brownfield sites; provide outreach to homebuyers on the effects of sea-level rise and extreme storms on flooding and flood insurance.

The Climate Framework for Delaware was developed pursuant to Executive Order 41, signed on Sep. 12, 2013, which called for the creation of a cabinet-level committee to oversee the development of recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase the state’s resilience to climate change, and reduce flood risks due to sea-level rise. The framework’s adaptation recommendations were developed by a workgroup of representatives from 11 different state agencies and departments (the Adaptation Workgroup). The state's climate committee approved the recommendations of the Adaptation Workgroup in December 2014.  Previously, in September 2013, the Delaware Sea-Level Rise Advisory Committee also released recommendations on how the state can prepare for the specifics impacts of sea-level rise, Preparing for Tomorrow’s High Tide: Recommendations for Adapting to Sea-Level Rise in Delaware.