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Kate Dempsey is the state director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. Daniel Kleban is the founder of Maine Beer Company. Both are members of the Maine Climate Council.
The release of the Maine Climate Action Plan marks the end of an important year-long process. This effort brought together people with widely varying experiences and viewpoints — along with the input of thousands of Mainers — to chart a positive, actionable plan to address a pressing challenge facing our state and the world. We were among the members of the Maine Climate Council, and are an example of the breadth of perspectives that were at the table.
As an organization dedicated to conserving lands and waters, The Nature Conservancy focuses on emphasizing the role of nature in addressing climate change. The forests that cover Maine are constantly absorbing carbon, and our tidal marshes are a buffer against rising sea levels and increased storm surges. Protecting what we already have and cherish is a key climate strategy in the state’s new plan, as is reducing carbon pollution to address warming temperatures. We’re confident these strategies will help Maine meet this challenge while also ensuring benefits are seen across the state, including in rural regions where TNC so often works.
Maine Beer Company is a small business that strives to serve as a model for how Maine’s business community can be part of the solution to climate change. The Climate Action Plan includes strategies to grow Maine’s clean energy economy, create good jobs, and recognize climate leadership by Maine businesses and organizations. It lays out achievable strategies to help businesses embrace new opportunities and take steps toward a more sustainable future — reflecting that a healthy bottom line and a healthy planet are not mutually exclusive. Just as the health of our people and our environment depends on us taking action, so does the health of our economy.
Despite these different backgrounds and priorities, we were proud to come together as part of the Maine Climate Council. Facing climate change in meaningful ways that preserve nature and build our economy is a tremendous challenge, but it is also an incredible opportunity. After a unique and challenging year of big conversations, deep learning and plain hard work, we feel strongly that the final report balances a wide range of views and navigates a hopeful and sustainable path forward for Maine.
This outcome is worth celebrating — in fact, finding consensus at this moment in history is worth celebrating in its own right. With so much division in the world, we need examples of how we can come together across differences to face a common danger and take it on together. This is uniquely true because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which kept the council from meeting in-person for most of this year. Despite all of these challenges, the leaders of this process rallied and forged ahead.
The Mills Administration deserves enormous credit for wrangling such a diverse group, creating an inclusive process, and finding common ground. The Maine Climate Action Plan provides a model process for other states and governments serious about facing this existential threat and seizing this once-in-a-generation opportunity. It is a true “Dirigo” moment, and something all Mainers can be proud of.