I spoke to a group in Waterford early this month as part of a series of conversations sponsored by the local Waterford Congregational Church. The Mainers gathered there on a chilly February evening were eager to discuss tangible actions they could take as they pondered a concern many of us share: Climate change and its impact on the place we call home.

Lisa Pohlmann

Mainers live, work, and play close to the land. Whether a fisherman or hunter, a kayaker or snowmobiler, a farmer or a forester, Mainers are experiencing the changes to their landscape and industries firsthand. This is not the place that many Mainers remember growing up in, but it is our home now, and we have a duty to be more active in protecting it.

This is a critical moment to do so.

We have an active state administration led by Gov. Janet Mills who has made climate action a priority. The Maine Climate Council is currently developing a new statewide Climate Action Plan by the end of 2020. This four-year plan is an exciting opportunity to strengthen our economy and create thousands of new jobs here in Maine by moving us steadily toward new statewide targets of reducing carbon pollution 80% and achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050. This may seem like a long way to go, but it is doable, especially given the ingenuity and work ethic of Mainers.

We must all get our shoulders behind the wheel and push. Maine people know how to do that.

We know from experience that taking action delivers enormous benefits to Maine and its people. For example, a suite of new solar energy laws passed last year opened Maine up to the environmental and economic benefits that our neighboring states have been enjoying for years now — and that Maine people have been clamoring for. As a result, new solar businesses are coming here, those already in Maine are growing, and people are moving back to work in the solar industry. Towns and businesses across Maine are installing solar projects because of the opportunity to reduce costs through lower electricity bills. This brings more locally produced clean energy to Maine, which will reduce costs for every electricity customer.

Efficiency Maine has done a fantastic job helping homeowners save money through a broad range of energy efficiency programs, especially by championing highly efficient cold-weather heat pumps. Some of the support for Efficiency Maine has come from an innovative and effective program called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that reduces air pollution from power plants across the Northeast, while creating jobs and lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Now it’s time for Maine to replicate that success by joining a regional plan for modernizing the way we move goods and people called the Transportation and Climate Initiative.

TCI could result in hundreds of millions of dollars that can be spent here in Maine. It would allow us to invest in affordable, healthy options for moving around, like an expanded network of public buses connecting our rural towns with cities, incentives to buy clean cars that don’t run on polluting fossil fuels, and better land use decisions to co-locate affordable housing near businesses while also creating safer places to walk and bike. We can’t afford to leave this money on the table.

Make no mistake, the fossil fuel companies and their allies who make billions off the status quo will fight hard to block progress through scare tactics. I know Mainers will see through this misinformation because they know a good deal when they see one. Transitioning to clean energy is a win-win for Maine.

By urging our state’s leaders to join TCI and encouraging the Maine Climate Council to create a strong Climate Action Plan with concrete steps for creating a better future, we can take advantage of this important moment.

Get your shoulder behind the wheel and push. We’ll all be better off for it.

Lisa Pohlmann is CEO of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.


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