On Monday at the United Nations Gov. Janet Mills pledged that Maine will have a carbon-neutral economy by 2045. And she signed an executive order directing the new Maine Climate Council to deliver recommendations to make this transition in 25 years.
Sounds good, right? It’s one of the most ambitious pronouncements by any governor in the country. But listen to Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who also addressed the U.N. this week. “The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50 percent chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control. There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable,” she said.
“You are failing us. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.”
Today 40 percent of the energy Maine consumes comes from renewable sources. But we have an abundance of untapped solar, offshore wind and new tidal energy technology that could power 100 percent of our economy. And that does not include the vast amount of wasted energy that can be cost-efficiently conserved.
Four months ago Mills signed into law a bill requiring her administration to develop a plan to make Maine energy independent by 2030. Originated from Mount Desert Island’s grassroots citizen’s organization, A Climate to Thrive, and sponsored by Rep. Brian Hubbell of Bar Harbor, LD 658 is the most significant action taken this year in Maine responding to the science cited by Thunberg.
But Mills is a pragmatist. Her political judgment dictates more comfortable goals, 25 years out, by 2045 rather than 2030. So she has overlooked or ignored the necessity of the urgent action spelled out by LD 658.
Last week, the Islesford Lobstermen’s Coop and MDI High School celebrated the completion of solar arrays that will provide 100 percent of the power for both facilities. These local climate solutions are saving fishermen and taxpayers real money for reinvestment in our communities while paving the way toward a sustainable future.
We challenge the governor to do even more:
— Declare that Maine is facing a climate emergency — and act like it.
— Use the moral and financial authority of the state to lead in solarizing every state building and making state government net-zero in energy consumption by 2030.
— Solarize every school and municipal facility by 2030.
— Accelerate the development of carefully sited offshore windmills. Offshore wind now fully powers every home in Scotland.
— Transform CMP and Emera into consumer-owned utilities that put the needs of ratepayers and climate ahead of fat profits to foreign shareholders. The consumer-owned utilities should be mandated to conserve energy and develop smart grids powered by green, local sources that will provide more reliable power at lower costs. And, they should invest in energy conservation and solar panels for low- and moderate-income households, repaid through net savings on utility bills.
Maine cannot wait until 2045.
Gary Friedmann is a co-founder of A Climate to Thrive (aclimatetothrive.org) and co-founder of Maine Climate Action Now.