By Gary Friedmann
At the United Nations, Governor 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 UN:
“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,” she said. “There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable.
“You are failing us,” she continued. “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 doesn’t include the vast amount of wasted energy that can be cost-efficiently conserved.
Four months ago, Governor Mills signed into law a bill (LD 658) requiring her administration to develop a plan to make Maine energy-independent by 2030. Originated from Mount Desert Island’s grassroots citizens organization A Climate to Thrive and sponsored by Rep. Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor), LD 658 is the most significant action taken this year in Maine responding to the science cited by Thunberg.
But Governor Mills is a pragmatist. Her political judgment dictates more comfortable goals, 25 years out, by 2045 rather than 2030. So she seems to have already overlooked or ignored the necessity of the urgent action spelled out by LD 658.
Last week the Islesford Lobstermen’s Co-op 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 of Maine 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.
Initiate a crash program in carefully sited offshore wind power.
Transform Central Maine Power and Emera into Consumer Owned Utilities (COUs) that put the needs of ratepayers and climate ahead of fat profits to foreign shareholders. COUs, mandated to conserve energy and develop smart grids powered by green, local sources, will provide more reliable power at lower costs. COUs will also invest in energy conservation and solar panels for low and moderate-income households, repaid through net savings on utility bills.
Maine can’t wait until 2045. We can do better, Governor Mills.
Gary Friedmann has served on the Bar Harbor Town Council for nine years.