Blacksburg plans to cut carbon emissions

The Town of Blacksburg introduced an initiative to reduce the town’s carbon pollution. Photo: Rasha Aridi

The Town of Blacksburg sets a goal to cut 80 percent of carbon pollution by 2050 in an effort to do its part in addressing the climate change crisis.  

“What we need to be do is push for structural change. We need our transportation to be wildly different. We need our energy grid to be wildly different if we’re going to have a livable planet. We need for people who are making the upstream decisions to be setting us up so we don’t have to research all of the things we can do to be greener,” says Carol Davis, Blacksburg’s sustainability manager.

Blacksburg’s Climate Action Plan was completed in 2016 and details how the town plans to cut carbon emissions across six different sectors: residential, transportation, commercial/industrial, food, waste, and recycling, land use, and renewable energy. Each target area has its own set of measurable objectives and strategies.

“We have different sets of strategies. Some are more systems-level strategies, so things that local government can do, like a partnership with the community, so that’s setting up new policies and employing different initiatives. Others are more individual action, so setting people up to make more sustainable choices,” says Davis.

Davis says new legislation and policy are crucial for reducing Blacksburg’s carbon footprint. Policy has the ability to create changes further upstream, so less responsibility falls onto municipalities to reduce their emissions. As the upstream energy source becomes renewable, there is less “dirty energy” coming through the power lines. For example, Davis says that it is not possible to upgrade all existing buildings into energy efficient ones, but if these buildings are powered by green energy, then all that is left to do is ensure that future buildings are energy efficient.

Although it’s important for individuals to recognize their role in climate change mitigation, Davis says that real change comes from legislation.

“Over the decades, that level of responsibility keeps getting shunted down to the people least able to affect outcomes. So, there are lots of things individuals can do, but it usually takes a lot of effort. It requires a lot of free time, disposable income, a certain level of education, and it ends up being a thing that privileged people can do but isn’t really accessible to the average citizen,” Davis says.

Follow the link to learn more about Blacksburg’s Climate Action Plan.