Earth’s changing climate is one of Georgia’s most significant long-term environmental challenges. The Georgia Conservancy is therefore committed to the development and promotion of policies and practices that lessen the adverse impacts on the environment that contribute to climate change.
The effects of climate change are clearly manifested by changing weather patterns, increasing storm intensity, habitat migration, and rising sea levels. Warming atmospheric and ocean temperatures have accelerated climate change, in significant part due to human activity. As a consequence, our natural resources, economy and the health of our residents face increasing pressure, challenges and costs as a result of the pace of these changes.
Our state provides unique challenges, as well as special opportunities, to address climate change.
Georgia currently ranks sixth nationally in biodiversity and is home to one-third of the eastern seaboard’s salt marshes. Additionally, Georgia contains the largest area of forest cover (67%) in the South, with more than 24 million acres. Georgia is also home to a quickly expanding economy and population. By 2030, it is estimated that Georgia will be home to more than 14.5 million people, an increase of nearly 50% from 2016. The health of Georgia's residents and businesses depends upon the health and sustainability of its natural resources.
Climate change cannot be addressed solely at the state level. It is essential that Georgia's elected officials work collaboratively across state boundaries in an effort to influence climate change conversations and outcomes.
Opportunities already exist to implement strategies that will serve to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and insure Georgian's capacity to adapt to an already changing climate. Actively promoting renewable energy, sustainable technologies, land use planning and efficiency, and individual actions are some of the meaningful steps that must be taken to address climate change on a local and national level.
The Georgia Conservancy envisions well-considered public and private initiatives to implement practical solutions that will lessen the adverse effects of human contributions to climate change.
- Human health, happiness and well-being are directly linked to a healthy ecosystem - one which must be preserved for present and future generations.
- A healthy environment and healthy economy go hand-in-hand and are vital to a thriving society. Therefore, in seeking to conserve Georgia’s natural resources, a balance must be struck. between natural resource preservation and the need for maintaining a vibrant economy.
- Effectively addressing climate change will require a collaborative effort by the public and private sectors.
- Principled advocacy calls for scientifically sound research, clearly defined agendas, inclusive participation, informed environmental education, and constructive dialogue and negotiations.
- Strategies for the development of electric, gas and other power generation will lead to enhanced environmental and health outcomes.
- The adoption and implementation of practices to offset the effects of GHG emissions are shared responsibilities of all Georgians.
- While the Conservancy's efforts will predominately focus on statewide climate initiatives, the Conservancy will actively support global climate change policies and make its voice heard by elected officials at all levels of government.
The following positions guide our programs and inform our advocacy work:
- Natural resource conservation and production efficiency are the first necessary steps to reduce Georgian’s impact on climate change.
- Renewable and low-to-no carbon energy resources are significantly preferred, and their development should be actively promoted.
- In the siting, development and production of all energy facilities, the protection of critical habitat of listed or threatened species of plants or animals must be considered.
- Because innovation and investment in technologies can effectively reduce GHG emissions, incentives for such technologies to be developed and made available to citizens and businesses are necessary.
- Investment in and expansion of Georgia’s multi-modal transportation systems, as well as adoption of shared transportation models, should be fostered to reduce Georgian's dependence on fossil fuel reliant automobiles and fixed asset vehicles.
- Georgia’s vast landscape offers incredible opportunities to serve as a sink for carbon dioxide and other GHGs. Land conservation and land use planning continue to be critical components to maximize opportunities for sequestering carbon and other GHGs.
- Addressing climate change in Georgia through education and citizen action is effective and essential. Efforts to educate individuals and organizations about energy efficiency opportunities in the home and at work must be significantly expanded.
- Further reductions in GHG emissions that exacerbate air quality will require a wide range of strategies. While some of those strategies may be minimally impactful on their own, all strategies are a necessary component of an overall solution and should be considered and implemented.
- The Conservancy will assist Georgians in adapting to the current effects of climate change, such as sea level rise and increased storm frequency and intensity.
- The Conservancy will collaborate with Georgia’s agriculture community and other conservation organizations to identify and advance climate friendly agriculture methods including efforts to reduce topsoil erosion and the use of harmful pesticides. Such strategies would include sustainable agricultural practices such as no-till, low-till and cover crop farming.
- The Conservancy will continue to promote land conservation and land-use planning practices and policies.
Examples of Specific actions the Conservancy will take
- The Conservancy will integrate climate change concepts and awareness in all of its programmatic work.
- Because solutions often begin with an open and constructive dialogue, the Conservancy will serve as a convener for discussions among diverse groups regarding climate change policies and strategies.
- The Conservancy will advocate and lobby for practical, science-based solutions to the human influenced drivers of climate change, particularly in the areas of land conservation, habitat protection, and sustainable growth planning and implementation.
- Acknowledging that a healthy economy and a healthy environment can and must co-exist, we will advance market-based solutions for climate change that are equitable, particularly for those that are the most vulnerable in our economy.
- The Conservancy will actively promote a dedicated state funding source, as well as other funding sources, to conserve Georgia’s most ecologically-important lands and waters.
- The Conservancy will take into account the organization’s impact on the environment and potential climate change in every internal operating decision that it makes.