Analysis: Edwards reaches global stage on climate change
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — With his trip to an international climate change conference, Gov. John Bel Edwards acknowledged Louisiana’s obvious front-row seat to the problems of a warming planet while raising his profile on an issue few of the South’s top leaders promote.
The Democratic governor has become more strident in talking about the perils of climate change during his second term. But Edwards is trying to balance that discussion while describing the importance of the oil and gas industry to Louisiana. Meanwhile, the types of so-called clean energy projects the governor’s touting have drawn criticism within the environmental community.
Edwards was among at least six U.S. governors, all Democrats, who attended part of the United Nations climate change conference in Scotland, known as COP26. At least two states led by Republican governors also sent representatives to the event.
“I suspect I’m the first governor of Louisiana, of my state, to speak out clearly and repeatedly about climate change. But I’m also certain I won’t be the last,” Edwards said in a livestreamed discussion with President Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry.
At events in Glasgow, the governor pointed to years of coastal land loss, the five major hurricanes that hit the state in the last 14 months, the winter storm and rounds of flash flooding as he described Louisiana as “ground zero” for the impacts of climate change.
“While we can’t for certain point to any one storm and say it wouldn’t have happened but for climate change, we know that the frequency and severity of these severe weather events is increasing. And we know that it’s because of climate change,” he said.
Edwards has joined Louisiana to the international Race to Zero Campaign, which seeks to reduce net carbon emissions around the world to zero by 2050. A climate change task force he created is working on a strategy document for how to reach that goal for Louisiana. And the governor’s been promoting Louisiana as a hub for clean energy projects.
As he makes the pitch, Edwards can’t ignore that tens of thousands of jobs in his state are tied to fossil fuels and the oil and gas industry is a chief financial backer of Louisiana’s coastal restoration work. Though he’s had a rocky relationship with the industry, Edwards argues oil and gas companies must be involved in energy advancements that curtail greenhouse gas emissions.
Mike Moncla, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, was skeptical other attendees of the UN climate change conference would hear Edwards’ message of the industry’s importance.
“While we appreciate (the governor’s) rhetoric about including oil and gas in the climate change conversation, I think it’s going to fall on deaf ears above his head. Biden’s plan since day one has to been to decimate oil and gas,” Moncla said.
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