On December 1, 2020, the Maine Climate Council released its report, “Maine Won’t Wait, A Four-Year Plan for Climate Action,” to Governor Janet Mills. The focus now turns to the governor and legislature to transition the Plan’s priorities and strategies into legislative and regulatory initiatives.
Not everyone thought it would be possible to build a consensus-driven, aggressive roadmap to addressing the relentless effects of climate change. In fact, in early 2020, the December 1 deadline for finalizing Maine’s Climate Action Plan seemed very far away. The enormity of Covid-19 was taking hold and many were struggling to care for their families, adjust to working remotely and Zoom calls, and balancing the immense stress and anxiety of this extraordinary time. However, Governor Mills and her staff assured the approximately 230 Council and Working Group Members, including Acadia Center, of how important our work was and that despite the coronavirus taking its toll on the health, welfare, and wallets of Mainers, the climate challenge wasn’t going away and a climate plan must be a top priority. Now we are ready to implement the Maine Climate Action Plan in a way that maximizes investment in renewable energy, efficient buildings, clean transportation, healthier communities, and our most vulnerable citizens, while driving a clean energy economic recovery.
The Climate Action Plan confronts the extreme impacts of climate change on Maine’s coastal communities, public health, fishing and marine industries, forests, and low-income and other vulnerable populations. Not all strategies are created equal, and the state of Maine will want to focus on those that deliver the biggest bang for their buck. This Plan represents the most significant and comprehensive effort to map out the actions that are needed to reduce climate pollution and create new jobs as part of the transition to a clean energy economy. It sets out strategies based on scientific assessments of the reduction levels needed to help protect our economy, people, and environment from severe impacts of climate change. The final Climate Action Plan includes substantial increases in electric vehicles and residential heat pumps, additional support for renewable energy projects, and assistance to improve community resilience. There are also strong recommendations to protect natural and working lands and forests across the state, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The Plan will not be successful without a robust political and financial commitment to implement its strategies. The federal government will also need to step up to support states like Maine in investing in clean energy, a modern transportation system, and resilient infrastructure. While the Plan has gaps, especially in its limited support of a regional Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) we believe this blueprint will lead to significantly lower greenhouse gas levels, and importantly, a diversity of opportunities for a diversity of Mainers. With a new federal administration coming into office in 2021 with a commitment to climate, state, regional and local work to advance a clean energy and transportation future, we are optimistic about the opportunities and vision Maine’s Climate Action Plan lays out.
There is no single silver bullet to address climate change. We need to attack it from multiple angles, try many approaches. Maine’s Climate Action Plan tackles this intractable challenge holistically and determinedly. With it, we will make the changes needed for a healthier planet and better lives for all Mainers.
Critical Elements of the Plan:
- Significantly expanding beneficial electrification for heating and transportation.
- Deploying high-speed broadband to 95% of Maine homes by 2025 and 99% by 2030.
- Increasing public transportation funding to the national median of $5 per capita by 2024.
- Increasing weatherization, especially for low-income and rural households.
- Phasing in modern, energy efficient building codes to reach net zero carbon emissions for new construction by 2035 and incorporate mass timber and wood-fiber insulation into new building structures.
- Leveraging additional procurements of clean energy supply with specific development targets for offshore wind, smaller distributed energy resources, and energy storage.
- Minimizing environmental and community impacts of renewable energy siting by focusing on early engagement with key stakeholders and the public.
- Initiating a power transformation stakeholder process to pursue utility innovation and grid modernization.
- Marrying Maine’s natural resources and cleantech workforce and innovation to create and maintain good-paying, sustainable jobs.
- Increasing investments in Maine forest conservation and carbon sequestration.
With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, and a transition to a more climate-friendly President, it is particularly critical now that the final Climate Action Plan spurs robust, sustainable, and equitable solutions for the economic, energy, and environmental benefit of all Mainers. Acadia Center will be working with partners and policymakers to pursue legislative, regulatory, and programmatic initiatives that mitigate emissions from buildings, electricity, and vehicles while ensuring that Maine’s most vulnerable and rural communities are not left behind in such challenging times.