A new report released by Environment America outlines ways that United States governors can immediately address climate change and protect the environment, something that Maine’s new governor, Janet Mills, considers to be a “top priority.”
“From warming seas and rising ocean waters to an increase in the tick population, climate change is hammering our state and will have a significant impact on our environment and our economy,” Mills said. “That’s why fighting climate change is one of my top priorities as governor, and it is why I will work with the Legislature to welcome renewable energy to Maine and invest in innovative technologies that will create jobs, cut costs and reduce emissions — beginning with solar panels at the Blaine House.”
Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere, as defined by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
These phenomena include the increased temperature trends described by global warming but also encompass changes such as sea level rise; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in planting seasons; and extreme weather events.
The new 32-page report, “ Climate Solutions from Day One: 12 Ways Governors Can Lead on Climate Now,” was released by Environment America Research & Policy Center, a nonprofit with offices in Colorado and Washington D.C. dedicated to environmental research and education, on Jan. 28 just after 20 new governors took office across the nation. It details actions that governors can take to significantly reduce carbon pollution created by burning fossil fuels, while also supporting clean energy projects.
The report suggests that all states set goals for emission reduction, clean energy adoption, energy reduction, electric vehicle adoption and waste reduction. The report also suggests that state governments can lead by example by reducing energy use and waste and installing clean energy in state-owned facilities, and by using electric vehicles for state fleets, public transit and schools.
“Taking immediate action to diversify our energy resources, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and champion new ways to strengthen our state’s economy and the health of our communities should be our goal,” Mills said in response to the report. “I appreciate the ideas included in this report and will take them into consideration as we work to combat climate change.”
The report also outlines how governors can spur statewide policy changes to combat climate change. Some examples include the implementation of strong building energy codes, shifting transportation spending and policies to encourage low-carbon modes of transportation, incentivizing electric vehicles and raise vehicle emission standards, limiting or slowing the production of climate-altering fossil fuels, and collaborating on regional climate initiatives.
Maine is already a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort by nine Northeast and mid-Atlantic states to limit greenhouse gas emissions by capping and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. The initiative also involves the auctioning of C02 allowances, the proceeds of which are invested in energy efficiency and clean energy programs.
“The fact that the states are stepping up is really great news because they can make a difference, and they can build momentum that will get federal leaders to act,” Andrea McGimsey, senior director for Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions Campaign, said.
“Right now the federal government and federal leaders are not moving forward on climate action,” she said. “In fact, the Trump administration is working to roll back some of our best climate programs.”
In recent months, the Trump administration has vastly expanded offshore drilling for oil and has eliminated Obama-era climate change regulations on carbon emissions produced by coal plants. The federal government has also rolled back Clean Car Standards.
“There’s so much that can be done at the local and state level to cut down on carbon pollution,” McGimsey said, “from creating electric vehicle infrastructure to leading by example by making the the state buildings more energy efficient and less wasteful.”
Burning fossil fuels for transportation is responsible for 52 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Maine, where electric vehicles have been slow to catch on, largely because of the lack of infrastructure needed to charge the vehicles while traveling throughout the state. However, in recent years, electric vehicle chargers have been added to several locations throughout the state by businesses, such as L.L. Bean, and car companies, such as Tesla.
“Maine has very old infrastructure and laws around it so we need to change those and get ready for things like solar power and EV charging stations,” Carissa Maurin, state director for Environment Maine, said. “Hopefully we can be a leader and take steps forward. If we make these changes, other states may say, ‘Well, Maine was able to do it, maybe we can.’”
Maine is one of 29 state affiliates of Environment America, a nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental advocacy organization headquartered in Boston. To read the full report, visit environmentmaine.org/reports/mee/climate-solutions-day-one.