The Climate Action Plan: A Full Year of Progress!

It’s been a full year since Governor Mills released the Climate Action Plan (CAP), a blueprint for meeting Maine’s ambitious climate goals authored by the Maine Climate Council. One year isn’t a very long time, especially when much of the public focus has remained on dealing with the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, but the state has made remarkable progress towards CAP goals in that time. Today, the Climate Council is meeting to discuss their progress, and has released a new website – MaineWontWait.org -to help celebrate the one-year anniversary and help the public take action.

Let’s take a closer look at what we’ve achieved so far, and what’s ahead.

First, as a reminder, the Climate Council is a nonpartisan collection of scientists, industry leaders, lawmakers, and municipal officials convened by the governor. Maine Audubon’s Advocacy Director Eliza Donoghue is part of the Council’s Natural and Working Lands Subcommittee, and Conservation Director Sally Stockwell is part of the Science and Technical Committee. The Climate Council was tasked with developing a four-year plan to prepare for the impacts of climate change and provide a path to reduce Maine’s emissions by 45% by 2030 and at least 80% by 2050.

Action can’t come soon enough. An update from the Science and Technical Committee, which includes Maine Audubon’s Sally Stockwell, paints the clearest picture yet of a changing climate in Maine and around the globe. January 2021 tied for the warmest January in recorded Maine history. June 2021 was the second hottest month ever in Maine. August 2021 had the warmest minimum temperature of any August since 1895 and was the most humid month on record in Maine. Our sea levels continue to rise, and the Gulf of Maine continues to warm faster than nearly any ocean ecosystem in the world. We must continue to move quickly to mitigate these impacts.

The CAP provides policy recommendations in eight strategy areas, including the transportation sector, natural and working lands, and community resiliency. Specific policies identified in the Plan will need to be implemented via administrative actions or passed through the Legislature.

The state has made a lot of progress implementing the CAP in the past year, and it’s worth taking a moment to briefly cover some of the achievements.

Funding: Progress takes funding, and thanks to the Mills Administration and the Biden Administration, Maine has the resources it needs to flight climate change.

In the biennial budget and Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, Governor Mills proposed and the Legislature approved $25 million to weatherize Maine homes, $8 million to develop a clean energy workforce partnership, $50 million for efficient, affordable housing, nearly $25 million for local climate planning and infrastructure upgrades, $40 million for the critically-important Land for Maine’s Future program, and more.

On the federal side, the recent Infrastructure and Jobs Act will send more than $2 billion to Maine for infrastructure improvements for climate resilience, low-income weatherization assistance, expanded EV charging, as well as competitive funds for electrifying school bus fleets, electrical grid modernization and more.

Energy Efficiency and Electrification: The need to ramp down our use of fossil fuels and ramp up our use of local renewable energy is critical to meeting our climate goals. The state has provided an update of our progress so far:

  • 40,000 heat pumps installed since 2019
  • 2,043 homes weatherized in 2021
  • A 90% increase in EVs since 2019 and a 62% increase in EV chargers
  • A total of 165 Mw of solar generation installed in 2021, more than double (74 Mw) the amount installed in 2020. The state is now over 300 Mw in total solar generating capacity.

Legislation: Governor Janet Mills and the Maine Legislature, with the support of Maine Audubon, our members, and partner groups, passed a number of bills this year related to the Climate Action Plan. Legislative topics included:

  • SEA LEVEL RISE. Maine Audubon was vocal in our support for LD 1572, a bill that would require state agencies to make recommendations to incorporate updated sea level rise projections into each agency’s rules.
  • OFFSHORE WIND. Maine Audubon supported two pieces of legislation related to floating offshore wind this session: LD 336, which would encourage research into the impacts and viability of floating offshore wind in Maine by requiring the state to enter into an agreement to purchase power from research turbines; and LD 1619, Governor Mills’ proposal for a moratorium on offshore wind in state waters, where the majority of lobster fishing occurs.
  • NET ENERGY BILLING. Maine Audubon supports Maine’s practice of net energy billing, which encourages the use of small-scale renewable generation facilities by using a consumer’s own electric generation to offset other energy usage. We supported LD 936, which in part sought to create a stakeholder group within the Public Utilities Commission to consider distributed generation programs.
  • DECOMMISSIONING SOLAR PROJECTS. Maine Audubon supported LD 802, which requires developers to create a decommissioning plan for solar projects of more than three acres. This legislation will ensure that there are plans and financing in place to remove solar projects when they’ve reached the end of their lifespans.
  • LIMITING HYDROFLUOROCARBONS (HFCs). Maine became the 11th state to pass regulations limiting the use of these highly potent greenhouse gases.

___

We’ve made a lot of progress, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Maine Audubon will continue our work to safeguard Maine’s wildlife and habitat from the impacts of climate change. Join our Advocacy Alert list to ensure that you get the latest news and updates as we continue to march towards our climate goals.