Release date: 2019-10-23
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[Archived] Alexandria City Council Declares Climate Emergency

For Immediate Release: October 22, 2019

On October 22, the Alexandria City Council unanimously adopted a resolution declaring a climate emergency, recognizing that climate change poses a grave threat to everyone in Alexandria and around the world.

“The science is clear: humans are causing climate change and the results will be catastrophic if we don’t act now,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “The costs of addressing this climate emergency are far less than the costs of ignoring it, and local governments have a critical role to play by working with businesses and residents to avert disaster.”

The resolution notes that human-caused rates of emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases are likely unprecedented over the last 50 million years, which has caused Earth’s temperature to rise significantly. Of the 19 warmest years on record, 18 have occurred since 2000. There is a clear consensus among scientists, as described in a recent report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that humans must reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by no later than 2030, and reach net zero around 2050, in order to avoid profound and disastrous impacts on global climate, ecosystems and societies.

The resolution expresses particular concern for marginalized populations in Alexandria and worldwide, including people of color, immigrants, indigenous communities, low-income individuals, people with disabilities and the unhoused, who are already disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change.

The resolution expresses City Council’s commitment to a just transition and climate emergency mobilization effort to reverse global warming, with appropriate financial and regulatory assistance from federal and state government. City Council also calls on the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt policies and regulations to decarbonize the statewide electricity supply and allow for community choice over electricity supply purchasing.

Climate change is likely to have a particular impact on Alexandria as a coastal community on the banks of the Potomac River. Scientists predict a potential sea level rise of four to six feet and increased severity and frequency of flooding events by the end of this century. This means adapting to climate change will be key to Alexandria’s environmental and economic future.

While greenhouse gas emissions in Alexandria declined by 1.4% between 2012 and 2015, meeting the goals called for by the United Nations will require local reductions of 4-5% per year. The Environmental Action Plan 2040 passed by City Council in July 2019 commits to cutting local emissions in half by 2030 and 80-100% by 2050. Since City government emissions account for only 4% of community emissions, residents and businesses will play a critical role in achieving the emissions goal.

As the first locality in Virginia to adopt an Eco-City Charter, Alexandria has been at the forefront of progressive environmental change and action at the local level. The City continues to work toward positioning itself as a model of sustainability in its work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2009, the City has made significant progress in greenhouse gas reduction efforts through its smart growth, transit-oriented development land use policies and practices; solid waste recycling and management; innovative transportation initiatives, including expansion of transit services; the permanent shutdown of the coal-fired Mirant Power Plant; and implementation of energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies.

For more information about Eco-City Alexandria, including the Eco-City Charter and Environmental Action Plan 2040, visit

For media inquiries, contact Andrea J. Blackford, Senior Communications Officer, at or 703.746.3959.

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