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Sarah Nichols is a Bangor City Councilor. She is not speaking on behalf of the entire city council in this column.
Our state has ambitious climate goals, and as a city councilor in Bangor, I’m thrilled to see our community leading the way. Following the announcement of the “Maine Won’t Wait” four-year climate action plan, the City of Bangor and Town of Orono partnered together to establish the general framework for a joint municipal climate action plan in line with the state’s broader goals.
This innovative plan, which paves a way forward to decrease our state’s carbon pollution by 45 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050, is what we need at the local level to address the climate crisis. It also highlights the need for our elected leaders in Washington to follow our example and make common sense investments to tackle the climate crisis, achieve true environmental justice and accelerate the transition to clean energy.
Given that the transportation sector is the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., investing in clean transportation is one of the easiest ways to address the climate crisis while reducing Bangor’s air pollution, improving public health, achieving environmental justice, and spurring our local economy. Investing in electric vehicles (EVs) and building out our state’s network of EV charging stations will play a critical role in facilitating this transition. President Joe Biden’s original infrastructure proposal included targeted tax credits to expand the EV market and the necessary investments to build a network of 500,000 EV chargers nationwide.
These policies will not only help fight the climate crisis, they also have the potential to create many family-sustaining jobs right here in Maine. Manufacturing accounts for more than 10 percent of Maine’s total economic output, employing 53,000 workers. Investments in clean vehicle infrastructure will boost our state’s clean energy economy and manufacturing sector. Building out charging stations will also create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the construction sector.
Clean transportation means clean air. And for the more than 23,000 children and nearly 130,000 adults suffering from asthma across Maine, we cannot wait to make this transition. Without ambitious investments in clean vehicles and infrastructure, automakers will continue to make dirtier cars that pollute the air and harm our health. Everyone from children riding school buses to residents near major roadways and other pollution hotspots will benefit from the better air quality afforded by electric transportation. Electric vehicles produce zero tailpipe pollution and are a better option for Bangor’s roads.
Making these investments will also be vital in avoiding the worst effects of climate change, which are already starting to materialize throughout our state. Carbon pollution is a known driver of extreme weather events like nor’easters and heat waves. Between 2010 and 2020, Maine experienced three extreme weather events, which cost our state up to $100 million in damages. Today, more than 30,000 Mainers are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat. By 2050, our state could average nearly 40 dangerous heat days per year. With the Gulf of Maine warming faster than 99.9 percent of the world’s oceans, our vital fishing community could also find itself in jeopardy.
We’re running out of time to act on climate, and I’m proud that Bangor and Maine are already leading the way. But we need our leaders in Washington to make lasting change that delivers on climate, justice, and jobs. These investments are supported by communities across Maine, including Bangor, and it is vital that we support clean energy growth and investments in the electric vehicles market in order to improve public health and create economic opportunity for all in Maine.