Tree growth sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, which helps mitigate climate change. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The University of Maine is joining forces with Bangor and Orono to address the region’s impact on the climate as part of a collaborative that aims to stretch across Penobscot County.

In July, Bangor and Orono entered into an agreement to work together to create a regional climate action plan. During the Orono Town Council’s meeting Monday, councilors supported executing a similar agreement with the university. The university is close to finalizing its agreement with the two municipalities.

Bangor and Orono hope to develop a plan that aligns with the state’s four-year plan to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030, then 80 percent by 2050. The plan is also to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, according to the memorandum of understanding signed by the two municipalities.

UMaine’s involvement gives Bangor and Orono access to the university’s expertise on climate change. UMaine is home to the Climate Change Institute, and its Climate Futures initiative lays out a framework for the state and communities to adapt to climate change.

“The University of Maine is a global leader in climate change research and is committed to helping our communities and industries prepare for Maine’s climate future,” said Dan Demeritt, a university system spokesperson.

Gov. Janet Mills pledged that Maine will have a carbon-neutral economy by 2045 in an address before a United Nations climate summit in New York City in 2019. She paired that with an executive order directing a new Maine Climate Council to develop recommendations to reach that goal.

Last December, the climate council recommended changes such as increasing the share of electric vehicle sales to 28 percent of all new passenger car sales by 2025 and boosting that to 100 percent by 2050.

Another suggestion was connecting 95 percent of the state to high-speed internet by 2025, allowing more people to work from home and reduce travel-related emissions.

The council’s plan also called for doubling the pace of weatherization programs to cover 17,500 additional homes and businesses within the next five years, with an end goal of 105,000 by 2050.

The plan recommended the installation of another 100,000 heat pumps by 2025.

The climate work involving Orono, Bangor and UMaine won’t be fast. It could take up to two years before they are ready to roll out any plan, according to the agreement.

Orono and Bangor will work to get other municipalities in the area on board as well as other entities such as Husson University and the Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System, according to the agreement. They have also agreed to share the expense of securing external consulting services to craft the climate plan.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...