February 23, 2020
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Maine is taking a lead on climate change

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Upwards of a 1,000 students and adults gathered at City Hall in Portland on Friday as part of a Global Climate Strike observed in cities across the country. Speakers and participants called on politicians to act in halting global climate change.

It’s been a big month for climate action — especially in Maine.

Ten days ago, millions of youth activists took to streets around the world to demand immediate and meaningful action on climate. It was the second official Global Climate Strike, and young leaders — from the now-famous Greta Thunberg to thousands of students across Maine — promised to keep striking until elected leaders recognize and respond to the climate emergency.

“The sea is rising,” they told us, “and so are we.”

Last Monday, Gov. Janet Mills pledged to make Maine’s economy carbon-neutral by 2045 during an address at the United Nations Climate Summit.

As the only U.S. elected official invited to speak at the summit, Mills challenged world leaders to match Maine’s historic commitments to reduce carbon pollution by 80% and to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Maine won’t wait,” she told them. “Will you?”

A few days later, the Maine Climate Council convened for the first time.

The council brings together scientists, policymakers, businesses and advocates to develop an action plan for climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience strategies. Jerry Reid, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection and co-chair of the Climate Council, told the crowd: “We are a small state brimming with expertise on climate science and policy.”

Mainers should be proud to know that our state is leading the way, using that vast, diverse expertise to take ambitious climate action.

Mainers can also be heartened to know that we’re not alone. A growing number of Americans describe climate change as a crisis, and a clear majority support action on climate.

Cities, states, businesses and community leaders across the country are heeding that call to action with local commitments to achieve steep carbon pollution reductions and accelerate the transition to a clean, secure and carbon-free economy.

There are even glimmers of hope at the federal level. Leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, are taking bold action by introducing new legislation to transition the United States to a 100% clean-energy economy by 2050 and require net zero carbon pollution.

But that’s where climate action screeches to a halt.

Instead of advancing concrete solutions that will cut carbon pollution, protect health and create more clean-energy jobs, the Trump administration continues to undermine environmental protections.

Recent analysis counts more than 80 environmental rollbacks, many of which reverse policies that reduce carbon pollution. And at a time when state action is essential, the Trump administration is attempting to revoke state authority to regulate emissions.

California has always had unique authority to set its own emissions standards, which pre-dated and exceeded those set by the 1970 Clean Air Act, and states have had the option to follow either the EPA standards or California’s Advanced Clean Car Standards. More than a dozen states, including Maine, take the health and climate threat of emissions seriously enough to follow the more stringent standards.

As Mills told the world, “Maine won’t wait.”

Maine has joined a multistate lawsuit to protect state authority to set tough car emissions standards.

Pingree is co-sponsoring the 100% Clean Energy Economy Act of 2019 to challenge our country to the same level of climate action we’re seeing here in Maine.

And Mills has set bold goals for emissions reductions, renewable-energy development and carbon neutrality. From the climate strike to the Climate Council, Maine people are rising to meet them.

Kathleen Meil is director of policy and partnerships at Maine Conservation Voters, where she leads the Clean Energy for All campaign.

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