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ArlingtonArlington leaders downbeat on request to declare 'climate emergency'

Arlington leaders downbeat on request to declare ‘climate emergency’

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A proposal by two local environmental groups that the Arlington County government declare a “climate-change emergency” received the back of the hand, albeit politely delivered, from County Board members on Nov. 13.

The Arlington Tree Action Group and EcoAction Arlington have called on the county government to declare such an emergency.

“It’s obviously a global issue, but there are many things we can do at a local level. We need your leadership. This is the most important issue of your agenda long-term,” said Eric Ackerman, a founding member of the Arlington Tree Action Group who spoke during the County Board’s public-comment period.

The three County Board members who replied said their own hearts were with the group’s desires, but reality precluded taking such action.

“We hear you . . . but understand that we are not able to declare an emergency that gives the local government broader power,” County Board member Christian Dorsey. “Our declaring an emergency would be a rhetorical device.”

Declaring a local emergency in some ways “would work counter to our goals,” said board member Katie Cristol, noting that the declaration of a local emergency might imperil funding already approved on issues the two groups support.

County Board Chairman Matt de Ferranti agreed that working together with interested organizations was the best way to blunt the potential local impacts of climate change.

“We will have continued conversation,” he promised.

For the past two years, climate activists (and Arlington board members) have had the winds at their back in Richmond, with a Democratic governor and General Assembly. In 2022, Republicans will be ruling the roost, with Democrats having a very narrow majority in the state Senate as their only backstop to prevent the rollback of existing legislation – and the chance of new legislation on the issue being almost nonexistent.

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