The University of Virginia will use $1.55 million in settlement money from the Volkswagen emissions scandal to research carbon removal strategies and create an online dashboard that can help reduce net carbon emissions in the state.
UVA received the money in July, after being approached by attorneys asking if the University would like to submit a proposal, which the Environmental Resilience Institute did last fall.
The opportunity was good timing. In April, the institute’s Climate Restoration Initiative completed a survey of the state’s options and capacity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It concluded that Virginia can achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 by combining existing emissions reduction policies with carbon capture and sequestration technology.
“When we were contacted about the class action money, we were ready,” said Karen McGlathery, the institute’s director. “We call this our Climate Restoration Initiative 2.0, because we had already spent a year doing the statewide analysis.”
The dashboard will take about two years to complete. Government agencies, planners and other practitioners then will be able to view county-level integrated land use, demographic, economic and public policy information that will help in making climate-related decisions.
The institute’s associate directors, environmental engineering professor Andrés Clarens and environmental law professor Leon Szeptycki, will oversee the project.
In 2017, Volkswagen officials pleaded guilty to cheating on emissions testing by employing special software to cut pollution during the testing, then disabling it when the cars were on the road. The company agreed to play a fine of nearly $3 billion. A portion of that money has been allocated to environmental mitigation.