January 2, 2021

By Ramona du Houx

School protesters in Portland, Maine demand action.

Governor Janet Mills, on December 1, 2020 welcomed the release of Maine Won’t Wait, the new four-year climate action plan from the Maine Climate Council and announced actions her Administration will take to protect Maine people and communities and spur economic growth in the fight against climate change.

Governor Mills and the Legislature last year enacted bipartisan legislation that created the Maine Climate Council – an assembly of scientists, industry leaders, bipartisan local and state elected officials, and engaged citizens – to develop a plan to reduce carbon emissions and achieve carbon neutrality in Maine by 2045. Backed by the most comprehensive scientific and economic assessments about the effects of climate change in Maine in a decade, Maine Won’t Wait calls for decisive steps to achieve that goal, including bolstering the electric vehicle market in Maine, expanding the number of heat pumps installed in Maine homes, and transitioning to renewable energy to curb harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Maine Won’t Wait also details climate action steps to create economic opportunities for Maine, such as encouraging the growth of the clean energy economy; creating incentives for consumer, business and industry to invest in energy efficiency; and supporting innovative construction materials and agricultural systems that rely on Maine timber and farms to build and feed the state into the future. The plan also highlights strategies to ensure our economy and communities are better prepared for the increasing impacts of climate change.

“Over the past 14 months, the Maine Climate Council exemplified resiliency as it maintained its commitment through climate action despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Council co-chairs Hannah Pingree, Director of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future and Melanie Loyzim, Acting Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “The Plan the Council is advancing today will bring consistent and bold action on climate, over the next four years and into the decades beyond, to create a better future for our state and the next generations. Every individual, business, organization, and leader in Maine can play a role in making this plan a reality. This collective effort will be key to our success against the crisis that climate change poses for our state, nation, and world.”

Informed by the findings of Maine Won’t Wait, Governor Mills announced a series of actions to further her administration’s response to the climate crisis to protect Maine people and the environment, while also creating new pathways for economic growth. Key initiatives announced by Governor Mills include an ambitious goal to more than double Maine’s clean energy and energy efficiency jobs to 30,000 by 2030; to further expand existing incentives for purchasing electric vehicles and build more EV charging stations across Maine; to double the pace of home weatherization; to purchase more renewable energy through the state procurement process; and to create energy efficiency incentive programs for commercial businesses.

The plan calls for more EV’s like in this photo and solar and alternative clean power. Governor Mills, far right, signs solar power legislation in 2019 at the Blaine House, governor’s residence, where she erected a solar array, middle photo.

Governor Mills also announced her intention to submit legislation to put Maine’s target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 into law; to further advance cost-effective clean energy development; to enact official sea level rise projections; to create incentives for small woodlot owners to support sustainable forestry management and sequester harmful carbon emissions, and to launch a pilot program for community-level climate resiliency planning to inform broader efforts in coming years. She also discussed her plans to work with lawmakers in bipartisan fashion on a back to work bond package that meets climate goals this upcoming session focused on establishing a fund for community infrastructure projects that stem the effects of climate change, funding to accelerate the pace of weatherization improvements to Maine homes, and investing in the critical extension of broadband Internet access across the state.

“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,” said Governor Janet Mills. “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.”

The Governor also pledged to work closely with Maine’s Congressional Delegation to advance the goals of the plan.

“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,” said U.S. Senator Angus King, a founding member of the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. “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.”

By pairing climate action with economic recovery, a critical consideration stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine Won’t Wait puts Maine in a strong position to become a model for effective, inclusive and sustained climate action that aligns with the climate and energy priorities of the incoming administration of President-elect Biden.

Climate change threatens traditional Maine fishing industries. Photos by Ramona du Houx.

“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,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. 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.”

The failure to act against the effects of climate change carries a great risk for Maine, as doing nothing more will cause costly damage to Maine’s buildings and infrastructure, vulnerable ecosystems, iconic species and public health. An assessment for Maine Won’t Wait on the “cost of doing nothing more” about climate change found cost of inaction included more than $17 billion in damages to coastal buildings and infrastructure through 2050 as well as billions more lost from tourism due to seasonal changes, lost beachfronts, employment and valuable ecosystems.

“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,” said Congressman Jared Golden. “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.”

Maine Won’t Wait also highlights the strong economic potential from climate action, particularly clean energy and energy efficiency fields. Renewable energy sectors, like wind and solar, are some of the fastest growing in the nation, and Maine is poised to support its businesses and grow its workforce in these high-demand areas as a result of forward-looking policy changes and investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.

“If we do these things that the Governor is proposing, that Maine is wanting to do, not only will you set an example to our country and to the world, but you will be helping to 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,” said Secretary John Kerry, President-elect Biden’s special envoy for climate.“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.”

As the Council continues its work following the release of the plan, it will also convene a special Equity subcommittee to ensure future climate actions are conducted in Maine with focus on protecting and supporting vulnerable communities who are most at-risk from climate disruption.

“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,” said Jon Fitzgerald, Vice President and General Counsel of Bath Iron Works, one of Maine’s largest employers. “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.”

All told, Maine Won’t Wait is the product of an unprecedented public process, featuring contributions from more than 200 people on the Council, its six expert working groups, and scientific and technical subcommittee, plus input from thousands of other Maine people and stakeholders to produce bold, actionable strategies to addressing one of Maine’s most pressing long-term problems.

“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,” said Ambassador Maulian Dana of the Penobscot Nation, co-chair of the subcommittee. “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.”

The report builds on the significant steps the Mills Administration has taken to prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate change on Maine.

Maine joined the United States Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 25 Governors and states that have committed to climate action, created the Maine Climate Council, and withdrew from a national offshore drilling coalition and removed a moratorium on clean wind power development

Maine has set some of the most aggressive renewable energy requirements in the country – 80 percent renewable energy by 2030, and a goal of 100 percent for 2050. Maine also enacted aggressive targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions into law – 45 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050, as well as pledging to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

In November, Governor Mills announced the state’s intention to start the country’s first floating offshore wind research array in the country in the Gulf of Maine, in partnership with the University of Maine and two leading offshore wind companies, and to work closely with fishing and other maritime industries to ensure careful siting.

The state has partnered with Efficiency Maine to set an aggressive goal to install 100,000 new high-efficiency heat pumps by 2025, and with Maine Housing to ensure our seniors and others who are struggling against high heating bills can access to this cost-saving technology. Maine is on pace to install as many as 16,000 heat pumps – a record and more than double what was done last year.

State progress toward a 100 percent clean energy economy—

 Trump’s administration opposed and aggressively attacked climate change progress with rollbacks on environmental regulation and favors to the oil industry, amongst other climate destroying efforts.  However, during the same time, state climate action has accelerated as more states took increasingly ambitious actions.

As of September, 2020, 33 states have released a climate action plan or are in the process of revising or developing one. This includes 22 states that have released plans, 8 states that are updating their plans, and 1 state that is developing a plan. Since then that one state, Maine announced its plan, detailed in this report.

One state, Alaska, has rescinded its climate action plan. The individual characteristics of each state’s economy, resource base, and political structure provide different opportunities for addressing climate change. As of April, 2020, 15 states and territories have taken legislative or executive action to move toward a 100 percent clean energy future. This includes 10 states, along with Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, that have passed legislation to implement 100 percent clean electricity policies and economy-wide greenhouse gas pollution-reduction programs

  • California: Passed legislation for 100 percent zero carbon electricity by 2045 and executive order for economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045.1
  • Colorado: Passed legislation requiring 90 percent emission reductions below 2005 levels economy-wide by 2050, setting a goal to eliminate emissions by 2050, and requiring large investor-owned utilities to reduce emissions by 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Gov. Jared Polis (D) has put forth a plan to move to 100 percent clean electricity by 2040.2
  • Hawaii: Passed legislation for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045 and economy-wide goal of being carbon-neutral by 2045.3 4
  • Maine: Passed legislation for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045 and economy-wide reductions of 80 percent by 2050.5
  • Nevada: Passed legislation setting a goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.6
  • New Mexico: Passed legislation requiring 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.7
  • New Jersey: Passed legislation to reduce emissions 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050 and rejoined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in June 2019.8
  • New York: Passed legislation requiring 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040 and goal of net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050.9
  • Washington: Passed legislation requiring 100 percent clean electricity by 2045.10
  • District of Columbia: Passed legislation for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2032.11
  • Puerto Rico: Passed legislation for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.12

Virginia was the first state in the South to enact 100 percent clean energy legislation. The Virginia Clean Economy Act commits to slashing greenhouse gas pollution in the power sector, sets some of the most ambitious targets for energy storage and offshore wind energy deployment in the country, and codifies into law the governor’s 2019 executive order for 100 percent clean electricity.

Governors such as Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) created new climate offices and reorganized their agencies to take on the climate crisis, and Washington state enacted various sector-specific clean energy policies for power, transportation, buildings, and industrial sources.  New York, Colorado, along with Maine all locked in groundbreaking policies that require state regulators to implement new rules guaranteeing economywide cuts in greenhouse gas pollution and to support front-line communities and workers in the energy transition.

A 2019 report from America’s Pledge, a coalition of nearly 4,000 states, cities, organizations, and institutions committed to fulfilling America’s climate pledge to the Paris agreement, found that “full achievement of already on-the-books policies from state and local actors—paired with rapidly shifting economics in the power sector—would reduce U.S. emissions 19 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.”23 That’s nearly four-fifths of the short-term reductions that the United States committed to achieve under the original Paris agreement.

In addition to state and local governments, tribal nations are taking the lead in their communities with more than 50 tribal climate action plans in effect across North America. The Swinomish Tribe in the Pacific Northwest was the first community in the entire United States to make climate adaptation a priority.

On June 1, 2017, when Donald Trump said that the United States would leave the Paris climate agreement within 48 hours former Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA), Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), and Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) announced the formation of the U.S. Climate Alliance: a bipartisan coalition now comprising 24 states and two territories that remain committed to the Paris agreement and are working together to advance climate solutions. These states represent 55 percent of the U.S. population and 40 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas pollution. Many state, local, and tribal leaders are also members of We Are Still In another bipartisan coalition with more than 3,500 business representatives, university presidents, faith leaders, cultural institutions, and community leaders who are similarly committed to the Paris agreement.

On January 20, 2021, after our new President is inaugurated, Joe Biden has committed to rejoin the Paris agreement.