Maine’s Climate Action plan is being hammered out this year by the Maine Climate Council, convened by Gov. Janet Mills. The Climate Action Plan will be a roadmap to achieving Maine’s goals of reaching 45% greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2030, and at least 80% by 2050. This blog takes you on a deep dive into the process of creating recommendations for the Action Plan, particularly for the Buildings, Infrastructure, and Housing Working Group. You can access more of the recommendations here.

In May, despite the coronavirus, the Acadia Center and its partners convened a (virtual) meeting of more than 400 people, including dozens of environmental, labor, and public health organizations, to learn about how the Climate Action Plan will be created. The webinar, titled “The Maine Climate Council: Everything You Need to Know” was hosted by over 30 entities dedicated to reducing carbon pollution and equitably transitioning Maine’s economy to clean, renewable energy. Acadia Center joined its partners to call for action that strengthens the economy, creates well-paying jobs, improves public health, and ensures equitable distribution of investments, benefits, and opportunities. The full webinar can be found at this link.

Speakers at the webinar demanded a Climate Action Plan with concrete legislative and regulatory actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Clear implementation timelines and targets are also essential. Acadia Center has been working individually and with its coalition partners to influence policy strategies being developed across seven working groups of the Maine Climate Council. These working groups have been created to tackle the topics of coastal and marine issues; community resilience planning, public health, and emergency management; electricity and utility innovation; natural and working lands; and transportation. The working group members include businesses, legislators, nonprofits and foundations, scientific and academic experts, state and local governments, and youth representatives, each of which provide a different perspective on the issues. In their decision-making process, working group members considered costs and benefits; impacts on low-income, senior, and rural residences; funding and financing mechanisms; and economic and workforce results. During the webinar, Jeff Marks of Acadia Center presented the results of the Buildings, Infrastructure, and Housing (BIH) Working Group.

Why is the buildings and infrastructure sector so important to Maine’s climate goals? In Maine, this sector comprises 39% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with the residential sector the second highest carbon-emitter overall at 19% of the state’s emissions (transportation is first at 54%). Maine also has some of the oldest building stock in the country (56% of Maine homes were built before 1980) and the highest reliance on fossil fuels for heating. Sixty percent of homes still heat with oil, and 19% with natural gas or propane.

The BIH Working Group moved forward strategies that lead to:

  • Cleaner industrial processes;
  • Clean heating and cooling systems;
  • Enhanced resilience to extreme weather;
  • Improved efficiency, comfort, and safety in existing buildings;
  • Low global-warming-potential building materials;
  • Net-zero, renewable-ready building codes;
  • Increased use of Maine wood products in building materials; and
  • Reduced energy costs

Acadia Center outlined six strategies to reduce emissions in buildings, infrastructure, and housing:

1. Improve the design and construction of new buildings through steadily and more stringent building codes, increased compliance and enforcement, and focus on both operational and embodied carbon.
2. Transition to cleaner heating and cooling, especially high-efficiency space and water heat pumps.
3. Enhance the efficiency and resiliency of existing building envelopes, including audits, deep retrofits, and weatherization.
4. Lead by example in publicly funded buildings, including affordable housing, government buildings, and schools.
5. Accelerate the decarbonization of industrial processes, including overcoming limited funding for industrial efficiency, combined heat and power, and microgrids.
6. Modernize and stabilize the electricity grid, including ways to meet new demand in parallel with beneficial electrification, decarbonization, electric vehicles, and authorizing state agencies to consider climate mandates in their regulatory processes and decisions.

The Working Groups submitted their recommendations to the Maine Climate Council in June 2020, with a final Climate Action Plan due in December 2020.

In addition, Acadia Center was part of an open letter calling on the Maine Climate Council to strategically prioritize specific recommendations – read the details here on our website.

Do you want to share your opinions with the Council? Fill out this survey on the Council’s website to share your thoughts!