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‘Maine Won’t Wait’: Four-year climate action plan unveiled

The plan is "centered on data-driven outcomes to achieve the ambitious emissions reductions goals laid out in law — a 45% reduction by 2030 and 80% by 2050."

MAINE, USA — In a virtual event Tuesday afternoon, the Maine Climate Council released its four-year plan for climate action, dubbed “Maine Won’t Wait.” The council’s unveiling of the plan followed the 2019 executive order by Gov. Janet Mills to a tee, which stated the council must provide recommendations to meet the goal of carbon neutrality by 2045 no later than Dec. 1, 2020.  

In June of 2019, Mills and the Legislature created the Maine Climate Council in order to develop a four-year plan “to put Maine on a trajectory to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and at least 80% by 2050,” the Climate Council website explains. Per a Mills executive order, the state must also achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

The council is an assembly of scientists, industry leaders, industry leaders, bipartisan local and state officials, and engaged citizens. Hannah Pingree, Director of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, and Melanie Loyzim, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, serve as council co-chairs. 

In Maine, rising temperatures are a major concern for the state because of its dependency on industries like fisheries and forestry. The Gulf of Maine, which is the center of the U.S. lobster fishery, is warming faster than most of the world's oceans. That warming is bringing change to marine life and has thus been disruptive for fishermen.

Mills' executive order to bring the state to carbon neutrality referenced Maine's mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

The Mills administration says even as the state responds to the COVID-19 crisis, "addressing climate change remains a high priority." 

Watch the live recording of the announcement here:

As the pandemic continues to rage in Maine, Pingree said Tuesday, "The hottest ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Maine in a single day were recorded, and the most severe fire season and drought conditions in years punished the state, with devastating consequences for farmers."

Pingree said the pandemic exposed weaknesses in the country's national crisis response that mirror the gradual effects of climate change, such as the inherent challenges of emergency preparedness, economic and social disruptions, and more. 

Pingree and Loyzim noted the council agreed on the four-year plan with full consensus, though they didn't always agree easily. 

"[T]he plan reflects many of the diverse challenges Maine faces in the fight against climate change," they said. "It is centered on data-driven outcomes to achieve the ambitious emissions reductions goals laid out in law — a 45% reduction by 2030 and 80% by 2050."

"Backed by the first comprehensive scientific and technical assessment about climate change in Maine in a decade, Maine Won’t Wait outlines the urgency with which Maine must slow the effects of climate change to make a meaningful contribution to global efforts, while also taking bold action to prepare Maine people, communities, and environment for climate-related harms to come," the council outlines. "At the same time, Maine Won’t Wait details how addressing climate change presents transformational economic opportunities, such as from the growth of clean-energy sources and incentives for significant consumer, business and industrial investment in energy efficiency through weatherization, cutting-edge building materials, and alternative energy sources. These considerations take on added importance given the economic disruption caused by COVID-19."

The plan focuses on four goals:

  • Reduce Maine's greenhouse gas emissions
  • Avoid the impacts and costs of inaction
  • Foster economic opportunity and prosperity
  • Advance equity through Maine's climate response 

"The failure to act against the effects of climate change carries a great risk for Maine, as doing nothing will cause costly damage to Maine’s buildings and infrastructure, vulnerable ecosystems, iconic species, and public health," the council wrote in its plan. "This is why Maine won’t wait, and why hundreds of volunteers gave their time and talents to develop this Climate Action Plan, and countless more Maine people offered insights, opinions, and inspiration during the process to inform this set of strategies that truly represents a plan that is right for Maine."

Read the council's complete plan here

"We must act now to honor the legacy of Maine’s environmental stewards who bequeathed this precious place to us, to preserve our state for our children and grandchildren to enjoy as we do, and to build a thriving economy with opportunities for growth far into the future," Mills wrote in a statement. "Maine can’t wait to heed the warnings of scientists who tell us we cannot delay reducing carbon emissions to stem climate impacts, or preparing our communities to withstand extreme weather events, flooding, and warming that climate change is causing as we speak."

President-elect Joe Biden’s newly-minted climate czar former Secretary of State John Kerry joined Gov. Janet Mills and other Maine congressional and legislative leaders for the announcement. Kerry—whose new position with the Biden-Harris administration will entail fighting climate change “full-time,” the transition team said—said doing these things that Mills and the council are recommending in Maine will not only set an example for the rest of the country but will also "help make the world more secure."

"When we depend on our own clean energy for our future, we don’t have to worry about sending people to the Middle East or elsewhere to fight and defend the source of our energy. The world will be more stable," Kerry said. 

"This does not mean curbing our economies," Kerry continued. "It does not mean losing jobs. It does not mean diminishing our quality of life. On the contrary—it's the exact opposite. Dealing with new energy policy, building out our infrastructure to send energy intelligently from one place to another, building a smart grid, doing what we need to do to refurbish our buildings, to build our transportation systems. This is a unique opportunity to literally rebuild our country and to create millions of jobs in the doing of it."

"Maine won’t wait. Maine is going to lead. Maine is going to be ahead of the curve and get the job done for us and help set an example for every other state. I congratulate you."

Biden's climate plan calls for a goal similar to Mills': go carbon-neutral by 2050. In 2016, Kerry signed the Paris Climate Accord on behalf of the U.S., which, triggered by President Donald Trump, the U.S. formally left in November. Biden has vowed to rejoin the Paris Agreement on day one of his presidency. Following his recent appointment, Kerry tweeted, "America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is." 

RELATED: Biden pledges to rejoin Paris Climate Agreement on first day of presidency if he wins

Last September, Mills addressed the United Nations (UN), telling the General Assembly of her goals for Maine to go carbon neutral. It was the first time a Maine governor addressed the UN.

"And if our small state can do it, you can. Because we've got to unite to preserve our precious common ground, for our common planet, in uncommon ways for this imperative common purpose," Mills told the assembly.

RELATED: At UN, Mills says Maine will go carbon neutral by 2045

Statements about the four-year plan

Gov. Janet Mills

“From rising seas to warming temperatures to deadly natural disasters, humanity has been warned for generations that our climate is changing in profound and dangerous ways and yet not enough has been done to slow or stop it. Climate change will have profound implications for our state, our economy, and our people – both present and future. This is why Maine won’t wait, and can’t wait, to take action to ensure the resiliency of our communities, to create clean energy jobs and build a clean energy economy, and to support Maine families’ transition away from expensive, harmful fossil fuels to homegrown, renewable energy. I look forward to working with community leaders across our state to advance these goals and preserve and protect this place we all call home.”

U.S. Sen Susan Collins 

“Here in Maine, we reject the false choice of pitting the environment against the economy because we know that, in our beautiful state, the environment is the economy. Maine’s four-year Climate Action plan will bring together various industries, organizations, and local governments to protect our state’s bountiful and pristine natural resources. In the Senate, I will continue to champion policies to protect our environment, such as investing in energy storage technology to unlock the potential of clean renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions and super pollutants, supporting energy efficiency and weatherizing housing for low-income families and seniors, and helping communities mitigate the effects of climate change.”

U.S. Sen. Angus King

“The Maine Climate Action Plan is a comprehensive, thorough, and in-depth look at both the challenges climate change poses to our state, and the opportunities we must seize now. This plan is the beginning of an important partnership, bringing together Maine people with industry leaders and local, state, and federal officials to face these threats head on. Climate change is having significant impacts on Maine’s environment and economy, which is why we can’t waste any more time. We need to get to work – now.”

Senate President Troy Jackson

“Climate change is a real issue we need to deal with in our state and in our country. It is affecting all of us. I want to thank the Governor and the members of the Climate Council for all their hard work. I look forward to the discussion and the debate about these recommendations. We have to make sure we protect our heritage industries and there is a lot of opportunity. We shouldn’t be scared – we should work together.”

Incoming Maine Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau 

“The steps Maine is taking to address the climate emergency will help us both reduce our negative impact on the environment and build a more resilient, sustainable economy. Last year, the Legislature set aggressive targets to drastically decrease our dirty carbon emissions while increasing our use of renewable energy. With the release of today's report, we now have the plan to achieve those goals. We must meet this challenge and I look forward to continuing our partnership with the Mills Administration and the Maine Climate Council to create our clean energy future.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree

“I applaud the Mills Administration’s effort to ensure a broad coalition of stakeholders throughout Maine not only contributed to this landmark climate mitigation plan, but are invested in its success. By inviting the perspectives of diverse groups such as logging and fishing industry members to environmental advocacy and stewardship organizations, the Maine Climate Action Plan outlines an economically viable path to significantly reduce our state’s carbon footprint while turning Maine into a leader in the clean energy economy. Maine’s Climate Action Plan underscores the objectives laid out in Congress’ first-ever comprehensive report on solving the climate crisis, which was released by the U.S. House’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis this summer. In Congress, I will work to pass legislation which will help Maine meet our goal of being net-zero by 2045.”

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden

“Climate change is a serious challenge, globally and here in Maine. Our state's heritage and our future economy — and thousands of fishing, forestry, agriculture, and conservation jobs — depend on our ability to protect our natural resources and achieve greater climate resiliency. I applaud the efforts of Governor Mills and the Maine Climate Council to provide clear, actionable steps for our state. From investing in forest bioproduct innovation and launching the Maine Seafood Business Council, to expanding our renewable energy sector and establishing the Maine Climate Corps, I look forward to working with them and our communities to ensure that Maine’s economy and environment are strong and healthy today and for future generations.”

Ambassador Maulian Dana of the Penobscot Nation, co-chair of the subcommittee

“A society is only as strong as the most vulnerable populations and this holds true in climate work. As we make new and existing policy we need to work from a place of inclusivity and equity to make sure our work in lasting and meaningful. I am hoping to shed a light on the experiences of marginalized people in Maine and how the climate crisis affects us as well as solutions based in thoughtful consideration of these stories.”

Bath Iron Works Vice President and General Counsel Jon Fitzgerald 

“The incentives that are increasing Maine’s renewable energy resources are also allowing BIW to trim its electrical costs, improving our ability to compete with other shipyards that have lower energy costs. Forward-looking energy policy, along with workforce training partnerships, are helping clean energy developers, BIW and the state as a whole grow the highly skilled jobs that are vital to building Maine’s economic future.”

Natural Resouces Council of Maine CEO Lisa Pohlmann

“Maine’s new Climate Action Plan lays out a strong, science-based path for creating new jobs, reducing pollution, and helping protect Maine’s long-term health and prosperity.

This plan will help us reduce the amount of money, currently $4.4 billion annually, that Maine people spend every year on oil and gas from out-of-state. As we implement this plan and create a clean energy economy, we will instead be investing that money in Maine people, Maine jobs, and energy systems that will benefit Maine’s economy, while also reducing the pollution that is contributing to climate change.

We applaud Governor Mills and her staff, the Maine Climate Council, and everyone who helped create this new plan, including the more than 4,000 Mainers from every part of the state who provided ideas and input. We now look forward to working with the Legislature, business and civic leaders, municipalities, and residents statewide as we come together to implement these important strategies for our economy and our future.

We also look forward to working with Maine’s Congressional delegation, because successful implementation of Maine’s new Climate Action Plan will depend upon leadership from the federal government as we implement policies and investment programs that support the transportation and energy systems required in the years ahead.”

Conservation Law Foundation

“This far-reaching plan to confront the climate crisis sets Maine apart as a national leader,” Emily Green, Senior Attorney at CLF, said. “It puts us on track to meet our climate goals and grow our economy while making Maine’s communities more resilient to climate impacts. Now comes the hard part: implementing the plan, and we look forward to working with people across Maine to get it done.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.