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AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills said she will address the United Nations on her administration’s nascent effort to combat climate change on Monday at a two-day summit in New York City, becoming the first sitting Maine governor to address the international body.
Mills, a Democrat, has made reducing carbon emissions an early goal of her tenure, which began in January. It has mostly marked so far by sweeping goals, including reducing carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. The details of doing that will largely be left to a 39-member council set to first meet next week.
In a Friday statement, Mills’ office said she was invited to speak on Monday by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, joining other state and international leaders at the two-day climate summit. Her remarks are expected to last roughly two minutes.
Kathleen Meil, the policy director for Maine Conservation Voters, an environmental group, said the invitation “such an honor for Gov. Mills and, more importantly, for the state” that recognizes “when you not only say the right things, but take action” on climate.
The Maine governor is also expected to participate in a discussion with European leaders on climate change on Tuesday and participate in a panel discussion with other governors from the 25 states that have agreed to abide by the goals of an international climate agreement that the U.S. left in 2017 under President Donald Trump.
Mills and the new Democratic-led Legislature have also reinstated a policy reimbursing solar owners for energy supplied to the grid, setting aside $5.1 million in settlement money to boost electric vehicle programs and enshrining a goal of installing 100,000 new heat pumps — which were also championed by Paul LePage, Mills’ Republican predecessor — by 2025.
The details of how Maine will fulfill the governor’s biggest goals have not been determined, and there are challenges. Maine already gets three-quarters of its electricity from renewable sources, and it has historically been the state most dependent on heating oil, according to federal data.
While emissions fell by 30 percent overall in Maine between 2004 and 2015 largely due to decarbonization in the electricity sector, transportation emissions — which make up half of all emissions here — stayed largely flat. The Mills administration is participating in a regional effort to address transportation emissions.
The announcement from Mills came on the same day as the international Climate Strike, which began with school walkouts in 2018. Events were held in more than a dozen places across Maine, including a large rally at Portland City Hall.