State joins U.S. Climate Alliance

Gov. Mills promotes establishing Maine Climate Council

Posted:  Thursday, February 28, 2019 - 1:15pm
Share: 

During her remarks at the E2Tech 2019 Conference Feb. 28, Governor Janet Mills said Maine has joined the United States Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 21 states committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Additionally, Mills announced that her administration will introduce legislation to create the Maine Climate Council.

The Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine held its policy-setting meeting this morning at the Governor’s Mansion in Augusta.

“Today I am excited to announce that Maine is now the 22nd member-state of the United States Climate Alliance,” said Governor Mills, in a news release. “While the federal government ignores its responsibility to combat climate change, Maine will work with states across the country to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Accord.”

“Climate change is already impacting Maine’s communities and the Northeast region through extreme precipitation and coastal flooding,” said Julie Cerqueira, executive director of the U.S. Climate Alliance. “Governor Mills understands the urgency of this issue, and by joining the U.S. Climate Alliance she is setting the stage for Maine to lead on climate action through priorities like investing in local renewable energy production and enhancing the state’s natural and working lands.”

The United States Climate Alliance works to take unified action to address climate change, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by at least 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, the release said.

Alliance members have committed to working together to contribute to the global effort to reach benchmarks established by the international Paris Agreement.

To reach that goal and to help established other initiatives that will help combat climate change, Mills said that in the coming weeks her Administration will introduce legislation to create the Maine Climate Council.

“The Maine Climate Council will be responsible for developing an action plan and a timetable to meet our emission reduction goals and to ensure that Maine’s communities and economy are resilient to the effects of climate change,” said Mills, in the release.

The Climate Council will consist of commissioners and key state leaders, science and technical experts, nonprofit leaders, and representatives of climate-impacted industries. It will be established in statute, solicit public input, and will report regularly to the public on progress toward goals.

The Council will lead efforts to reduce Maine greenhouse gas emissions.

“And, with the Council’s leadership, Maine will achieve 80 percent renewable energy in our electricity sector by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050,” the release said.

“My administration will also soon make announcements for other initiatives to address climate change by improving Maine’s transportation sector and our energy and efficiency standards,” said Mills. “We will mobilize state government to lead the way on energy conservation, weatherization and smart transportation measures.”

Governor Mills’ full remarks as prepared are included below:

Thank you. I have to say, I am proud to see so many entrepreneurs, innovators, educators, nonprofit and business leaders and fellow policy makers gathered together to discuss our state’s energy future.

It will take all of us working together to chart a new, better path forward for our state, but first we must address the challenges we face today -the chief among them being climate change.

A friend recently called my attention to a scientific paper entitled “The Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and Its Influence on Temperature.”

Not exactly light reading.

The British engineer who wrote the paper concluded that human activities were changing the earth’s weather and that, in fact, fossil fuels were to blame- a novel concept!

I bring it to your attention because that paper was published in 1938. No kidding!

G.S. Callender wrote back then – more than 80 years ago- that the impact of carbon dioxide on weather “is not only possible, but is actually occuring at the present time.”

The threat Callender warned us of is the same threat we face today- the threat to the very survival of the human species caused by climate change.

The threat of climate change, obviously, is not only local and not only national; it is global.

Nevertheless, we must ask ourselves what can we do to make a real difference right here in Maine.

What clean energy investments will we insist on?

What infrastructure will be required to electrify our transportation sector?

What are the resources and the unique advantages Maine may have that will yield environmental benefits in excess of the negative impacts of our own activities?

Clearly, the thinking and research and discussions held here today are critical for informing policy.

Some of you may have seen a report in the Washington Post late last year titled simply “We are in trouble.” In the report, scientists predict that global emissions of carbon dioxide have reached their highest levels on record.

This followed the report by the United Nations laying out a grim prognosis for the future of our planet, as well as the report from the Trump Administration (which they attempted to discredit) that forecasts serious trouble for New England.

We do not need another report to tell us what we already know: that our climate is changing; that it is changing rapidly; that it will have profound implications for us and for future generations; and that there is limited time to address it.

We know this because, here in Maine, we are witnessing these changes firsthand:

-The Gulf of Maine is warming at a rate faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans, driving our lobster populations further up the coast.

-Our coastal waters are growing more acidic, weakening the shells of lobsters, clams, scallops and oysters.

-Temperatures, along with our climate, are fluctuating more wildly, leading to natural disasters, increased tick populations and rising seas.

In the not too distant future, my grandchildren could reach my age and live in a Maine I would not recognize.

Will they know the singsong call of a black-capped chickadee or the smell of asters and lilies?

Will they know what the bark of a fir tree looks like or the grit of sand between their toes as they walk along the shores of Perkins Cove?

With butter on their lips and sun on their faces will they taste Maine in lobsters caught off Casco Bay?

If we do not address climate change, they may not remember any of those things. They may no longer know the state we all call home.

Black-capped chickadees are fleeing north. Five times more lobsters with diseased shells have been caught between 2010 and 2012. Ninety-two species of wildflowers - including asters and lilies - and 16 percent of our native trees - including fir - were already disappearing as of 2014.

Tick borne diseases are up nearly 700 percent from a decade ago and our beaches and seaside streets are already at risk of irreversible flooding.

You know, there are people who would still have us take no steps forward while climate change knocks louder, every day, on our front door.

Despite the banging which is impossible to ignore, they stick their fingers in their ears and plead for more time. “Climate change is not real, it is not happening here, it is not happening now” they chant while day by day, our environment slips away.

We do not have more time. The time for action is now. Wise, prudent, informed action...but action nonetheless.

In the past two months - with open doors and open minds- my Administration has welcomed innovative approaches and serious climate change prevention and mitigation efforts.

We are setting a renewable energy model for our state by preparing to install solar panels on the Blaine House grounds.

We have taken a strong stance against offshore drilling and the pillaging of our coasts and by lifting the moratorium on wind power, we are sending a clear signal to renewable energy investors nationwide- our state welcomes you once again.

Earlier this week I was proud to attend the National Governors Association Annual Winter meeting in Washington D.C. and honored to be named Chair of the NGA’s Natural Resources Committee.

No longer will Maine isolate ourselves from the rest of the country. I look forward to working with our neighbors in New England and states nationwide to develop solutions to the shared challenges we face.

As today’s theme suggests, - ‘a change is gonna come.’

I would argue change is already here - in more ways than one.

Today, I am excited to announce that Maine is now the 22nd member-state of the United States Climate Alliance.

While the federal government ignores its responsibility to combat climate change, Maine will work with states across the country to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Accord.

We will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by the year 2025 and by 80 percent by 2050.

That may seem ambitious.

After all, Maine is the most heating oil dependent state in the country, with nearly 70% of homeowners relying on oil for their heating needs.

We send five billion dollars out of state every year to pay for our use of nonrenewable fossil fuels.

Our high costs of energy and electricity are a barrier to our health and a deterrent to our economy, while our cars and trucks account for more than half of our carbon dioxide emissions.

Still, as author John Maxwell once said, “Impossible is not a fact. It is an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It is a dare...”

Do we dare to achieve the impossible?

To move us in this direction, I will introduce legislation to create the Maine Climate Council.

The Maine Climate Council will be responsible for developing an action plan and a timetable to meet our emission reduction goals and to ensure that Maine’s communities and economy are resilient to the effects of climate change.

The Climate Council will be comprised of commissioners and key state leaders, science and technical experts, non-profit leaders, and representatives of climate- impacted industries.

The Council will be established in statute. It will solicit public input and report regularly to the public on progress toward the following goals:

The Council will lead our efforts to reduce Maine greenhouse gas emissions. And, with the Council’s leadership, our state will achieve 80 percent renewable energy in our electricity sector by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

I look forward to engaging with many of you as this legislation moves through the Legislature and the Council begins its critical work in the coming months.

My Administration will also soon make announcements for other initiatives to address climate change by improving Maine’s transportation sector and our energy and efficiency standards.

My administration will work with the legislature to promote solar and make this technology accessible for more Maine people. We will introduce legislation to implement our 100,000 heat pump challenge announced earlier this month. We will vigorously support the efforts of the University of Maine to lead the country in off-shore wind technology development. And we will mobilize state government to lead the way on energy conservation, weatherization and smart transportation measures.

While these are important changes, climate change is one of the greatest threats ever faced by humans in modern times. The threat will be met not by silver bullets of compulsion, but by actions taken promptly by all of humanity.

In that pursuit: let us dare to achieve the impossible, let us embrace and invest in our future, and let us do it in a thoughtful way that looks decades down the road - to the fir trees, asters, and chickadees that remain for our grandchildren, and their children.

That is how we truly lead.

I look forward to working with all of you in this room, including the many lawmakers, innovators, and advocates among you who have done this critical work for decades. In my Administration you will always find a committed partner who shares your passion for tackling climate change and building a brighter, greener future for our state.