School of Public Policy Hosts Panel Discussion on the Biden Administration's Climate Change and Clean Energy Priorities.

Drawdown Georgia 1

Posted June 1, 2021

The School of Public Policy, in partnership with Drawdown Georgia, hosted a virtual panel discussion on May 19 to discuss the Biden administration's climate change and clean energy priorities - more specifically, the impact they will have on the state of Georgia. 

Panelists included Elizabeth Noll, deputy assistant secretary for House Affairs at U.S. Department of Energy; Robert Knotts, executive director of Georgia Tech Federal Relations; and Tim Lieuwen, Regents’ Professor, holder of the David S. Lewis, Jr. Chair and the executive director of the Strategic Energy Institute at Georgia Tech. Marilyn Brown, Regents’ Professor, and Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems in the School of Public Policy moderated the event. 

The Biden administration has announced numerous climate goals, including deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind, which would support 77,000 new jobs and over $12 billion in investment per year. These goals also include a reduction in the cost of solar by more than 50 percent. Additionally, the president announced a plan under the Paris Agreement to reach a 50 percent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels - all by 2030. 

To help meet these goals, a group of Georgians has “set in motion a grassroots movement, and statewide research collaborations in Georgia to combat climate change at the community and local level in partnership with businesses and NGOs, and the name of this movement is Drawdown Georgia," Brown said in her opening statement. 

Inspired by Project Drawdown and funded by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, the Drawdown Georgia project aims to identify a set of solutions to help the state achieve 'drawdown,' or the point at which greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations begin to decline on a year-to-year basis, and lead the state of Georgia on a path to carbon neutrality.

Over the past two years, Drawdown Georgia has identified 20 carbon reduction solutions tailored to Georgia's unique natural, economic, and social resources. 

"Together, we have shown that these solutions could cut Georgia's emissions by 2030 by 50 percent relative to 2005," said Brown.

Georgia's local and state climate initiatives could have notable impacts on energy research opportunities, clean energy jobs, reduction of carbon burden, and equity-based clean energy transition in all Georgia communities.  

Noll, an alumna of the School of Public Policy, was the first panelist to speak. Noll completed her Master of Public Policy Analysis in 2011. Her first-hand experience with the Biden and Harris administration provides a unique insight into climate policy priorities. 

"The administration is focused on putting the country on an irreversible path to clean energy and a net-zero carbon future. The impact was felt immediately when the president rejoined the Paris Climate Accords," said Noll. 

The administration is committed to doing all of this with equity as the guiding principle. 

"We are going to make sure that 40 percent of the overall benefits for Climate and Energy investments flow directly to communities that have been left behind, by deploying clean energy technology in disadvantaged communities to create opportunity and build resilience. We will make sure that good-paying jobs needed to put all of this into action are achievable for all Americans. Anyone with a high school degree and short-term training will be able to make a career out of this clean energy future." 

The efforts span from working with local and state governments to working with governments on an international stage. 

Lieuwen echoed the previous speakers about the importance of climate policy work at a regional and local level in Georgia. Georgia Tech has roughly 1,000 people working across the energy space.  The Strategic Energy Institute serves as a horizontal system to integrate that work. 

"The climate challenge is a global challenge, there are major national implications, but where the real action needs to happen is at a more granular, regional level. That is where the resource base is, that is where the jobs are, that is where the different regulatory structures are," stated Lieuwen.

Engaging regional stakeholders from all sectors, like public service commissioners, local officials, NGOs, and utilities allow energy projects to reach the full spectrum of the local community. 

Knotts spoke about developing energy and climate research partnerships. The federal government funds roughly 70 percent of the billion dollars in research done at Georgia Tech each year. 

"I see a group like this as being a great venue to nurture relationships and problem solve together and figure out where the needs are," Knotts said.

Climate and clean energy research span many different federal agencies, such as the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Economic Development Administration. Developing and maintaining diverse partnerships is a vital aspect of research funding. 

Drawdown Georgia’s leadership efforts and initiatives by regional and local centers could have a notable impact on the reduction of carbon burden and provide a broad base of clean energy jobs for Georgia’s residents.

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Ansley Thomas