Virginians know flooding has become one of the most challenging policy issues facing our state, especially on the coast. The rising of ocean waters due to climate change, combined with the area’s sinking land, will cause as much as 7.5 feet of sea level rise by century’s end, according to the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences.[i] Bigger, climate-fueled, storms also will prove to be a huge burden for local communities across Virginia. It’s time for collective coastal protection solutions throughout all levels of government.

But while the impacts of climate change are at our doorstep, so are the solutions. CCAN is working to help adapt our coast to rising tides, reduce carbon emissions at the root of the problem, and tap into Virginia’s vast wind and solar energy resources.

Click here for a downloadable fact sheet about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Read Frequently Asked Questions about RGGI.

Click here to take action with the CCAN Action Fund.

Watch the video:

A Win-Win Solution: The Virginia Coastal Protection Act

Read “Safe Coast Virginia,” CCAN’s report about climate change risks and coastal protection in the state.
Read the CCAN report to learn more.

A Necessary Addition to Executive Directive

In November 2017, the State Air Pollution Control Board approved draft regulations to cap carbon emissions by linking with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This was a great first step towards climate action in Virginia. However, without legislative action, the Commonwealth would not be able to utilize the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue raised from the carbon market or guarantee a cap past the year 2030.

Virginia needs a massive, coordinated investment in new and resilient infrastructure, living shorelines, emergency planning, and strategic retreat from vulnerable areas to keep people safe and dry. And we need money to pay for it—likely upwards of $1 billion for Norfolk alone.

The Virginia Coastal Protection Act of 2019 would formally join the state to RGGI. This would unlock crucial funds for adaptation measures throughout Virginia while guaranteeing long-term carbon emission reductions in a cost-effective way. As outlined in the VCPA, revenues generated from the sale of carbon allowances will help fund resilience efforts, support economic development in Southwest Virginia, and expand clean energy and efficiency investments statewide.

How RGGI Works

RGGI is a cooperative effort, currently comprised of nine East Coast states from Maine to Maryland, that caps and reduces carbon emissions from power plants. Under RGGI, power plants in participating states purchase allowances for every ton of carbon pollution that they emit. RGGI states agree amongst themselves how many pollution allowances to offer for sale each year, thus setting a cap on emissions, and they gradually lower the cap each year. It’s a flexible, market-based system. Participating states set the carbon cap and then power plants decide how to stay below it. Revenue from the auction of pollution allowances goes back to the states to fund carbon reduction programs and other initiatives decided by each state.

Virginia’s participation in RGGI is projected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars through 2030 in auction allowances.

Have any more questions about how RGGI works? Read the “Frequently Asked Questions.”

Connection to the Virginia Coastal Protection Act

The Virginia Coastal Protection Act gives the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board the authority to form a state-run auction within the RGGI marketplace when they review final regulations for Executive Directive 11.

The act directs funds to the Commonwealth Resiliency Fund, a dedicated source of revenue to fund projects that will improve the lives of millions of Virginians. The act also specifies that funds go to energy efficiency improvements and workforce development in southwest Virginia.

Why We Need Solutions Now: Hampton Roads is Ground Zero for the Climate Crisis in Virginia

Communities Are Flooding. Southwest Virginia is struggling. It’s Getting Worse. We Need Solutions Now.

As climate change worsens, coastal Virginia becomes increasingly vulnerable to storm surge.Locally, the impacts of climate change include:

  • Sea-level rise: The rate of sea-level rise on Virginia’s coast is close to the fastest in the nation. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) projects that Virginia’s coast will see 3-7 more feet of sea level rise by 2100.
  • Heavier precipitation: As the atmosphere warms, it holds more moisture, leading to more extreme precipitation from storms.
  • Super-charged hurricanes: Sea level rise makes storm surges from hurricanes more damaging. When Hurricane Isabel hit in 2003, it caused more damage than a bigger hurricane that hit in 1933. VIMS researchers believe Isabel was more destructive because the storm rode atop seas that were 14 inches higher.

Every time coastal residents must change their route to work or school to avoid flooded roads or vacuum out water-logged basements, they are confronting the local impacts of global climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas.

What’s at Risk?

A car drifts in a flood.The stakes for our communities and economy are high:

  • Hampton Roads is home to about 1.7 million people, yet the region has no strong plan for evacuation and shelter in case of a weather disaster.
  • The Tidewater region is critical to our national security, possessing the world’s largest naval base, and extensive military and federal infrastructure. Climate change poses a threat to these installations and our military readiness.
  • Prominent historical sites like Jamestown Island and Colonial Williamsburg are at risk of disappearing due to sea level rise and stronger storms.
  • A thriving beach industry which generated $1.28 billion in 2012 alone.
  • Extensive import and export infrastructure, which supports the local economy and provides jobs. Port activity impacts the Hampton Roads economy substantially, generating $12.3 billion in local output.

In the U.STuerevideo., the Hampton Roads region is second only to New Orleans as home to the most people at greatest risk from flooding caused by rising sea levels. Residents are already seeing the consequences – living on the front lines of climate impacts driven by fossil fuel industry pollution. Chronic flooding is forcing the raising of homes, roadways and naval infrastructure, and it’s only getting worse. Scientists predict that sea levels could rise by as much as seven feet within this century. In the event of a major storm, there is no effective plan to evacuate and shelter residents, even as warming ocean temperatures and longer hurricane seasons increase the risk of superstorms like Sandy.

To highlight the stories of Virginia’s coastal families living on the front lines of climate change we, along with our partners at Virginia Organizing and the Virginia Sierra Club, created Flood of Voices, a website dedicated to the stories of those being affected by rising tides and flooding, especially those whose voices are not normally heard. Click here to hear stories from Flood of Voices.

It’s Time to Make Virginia a Ground Zero for Solutions

While adapting to the sea level rise we’re locked into, we must invest in Virginia clean energy to reduce the pollution at the root of the problem.

Investing in clean renewable energy in Virginia will support coastal protection by limiting flooding from climate change.If we’re serious about protecting Virginians from the effects of climate change, we must first dedicate revenue to fund resilience efforts. Virginia can generate millions of dollars annually to fight climate change impacts and protect citizens from sea level rise by linking with RGGI, a regional collaboration to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

Revenue associated with the sale of carbon auction permits will fund climate resilience efforts, economic development assistance in Southwest Virginia, Agricultural BMPs to protect our the Chesapeake Bay, and clean energy and efficiency programs throughout the Commonwealth.

Fund Flooding Solutions in Virginia

The Dutch engineering firm Fugro estimates that Norfolk needs at least $1 billion to adapt to the flooding threat posed by climate change.[ii] The billion dollar price tag equals Norfolk’s entire annual operating budget.[iii] Other coastal cities face similar threats. Funding from the VCPA is the only viable solution to this growing problem.

Reduce Harmful Carbon Emissions

Since RGGI’s inception in 2009, emissions in RGGI states fell at a rate 2x greater than non-RGGI states even as the GDP in RGGI states grew 3% more than non-RGGI states.[iv] By joining RGGI, Virginia can cost-effectively cut our carbon emissions by 30% by the year 2031.[v]

Invest in Clean Energy and Efficiency 

Virginia lags far behind neighboring states in solar energy development and has an enormous amount of untapped potential in energy efficiency. New investments in these areas will help Virginia catch up in the clean energy sector and reduce customers’ electricity bills.[vi]

Stimulate Job Growth in Southwest 

New energy sources have led to historically low coal production in a region heavily dependent on it. The VCPA would invest in economic revitalization projects that will provide a much-needed economic boost for the region.

Take Action

Virginia residents call for coastal protection through climate action.

If we’re going to protect Hampton Roads from the worst climate impacts, we need to build a climate movement that matches the scale of the problem. The energy choices our lawmakers make today will affect the height of the seas our children and grandchildren will have to contend with. Our politicians are tempted to not look past the length of their own term in office, so we have to push them to stop new investments in fossil fuels and build a clean energy economy.

Click here to take action with the CCAN Action Fund.

To get involved, email Harrison Wallace, Virginia Policy Coordinator and Coastal Campaigns Manager, at

Key Articles


Watch the Video: Sea of Change