The glow from a sunset can be seen on the horizon over Lowell’s Cove in Harpswell, as seen recently. (Times Record file photo)

HARPSWELL– Inspired by a small group of activists, Harpswell voted last week to join 90 towns and cities across the nation urging Congress to combat climate change by charging a fee to large-scale carbon producers. That money would be divided up and returned to Americans through regular payments.

Members of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a national organization with chapters all over the country, including eight in Maine, presented the resolution.

“Our mission is to get our national Congress to pass legislation to fight climate change, and that’s to put a price or a fee on carbon (which) will be collected by a carbon fee trust fund and meted back to the residents — to all of the households in the U.S. — in monthly dividends,” explained Mary Lee Fowler, a member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “The fee will get people to gradually avoid using fossil fuels gradually and use more renewables.”

Harpswell and other coastal communities dependent on fisheries will be hit hard by climate change, according to the National Climate Assessment released by the federal government last month. A report on the study by The Portland Press Herald found that ocean acidification and rising temperatures threaten valuable fisheries in coastal communities like Harpswell.

“Species population models projected forward under future ocean conditions also indicate declines of species that support some of the most valuable and iconic fisheries in the Northeast, including Atlantic cod, Atlantic sea scallops, and American lobster,” reads the report. “In addition, species that are already endangered and federally protected in the Northeast – such as Atlantic sturgeon, Atlantic salmon, and right whales – are expected to be further threatened by climate change.”

Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and a contributor to the national report, told the paper that Maine fishing communities would be impacted by climate change unless action was taken.

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“Except in one area of Alaska, everywhere in the U.S. is going to see a decline in the fishing catch, … and that is going to have a large impact on the state of Maine because fishing is such an important part of the economy,” Pershing said.

To combat the growing threat of climate change to Maine communities, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby aims to reduce CO2 emissions to 10 percent of what they were in 1990. To do so, its plan would put a fee on all carbon use in the United States.

While the legislation is being rewritten to be weighed by the next Congress, the current plan calls for a $15 fee per ton of CO2 or equivalent greenhouse gases released. Those fees will increase by $10 annually — or more if the current fee isn’t lowering greenhouse gas emissions enough — until gas emissions are just 10 percent of what they were in 1990.

The fees collected by the Treasury Department would be paid out as monthly dividends to all U.S. households. Under the plan, a tariff would be put on imports from countries without similar carbon fees to reduce the incentive to outsource carbon-heavy industries.

As part of that effort, activists with the group are working to convince municipalities to endorse the resolution. Those endorsements are then sent to members of Congress to show that there is political support for the initiative.

“90 municipalities throughout the U.S. have signed on,” said Fowler.

Harpswell isn’t the first municipality in Maine to endorse the initiative. According to the Citizens’ Climate Lobby website, Brunswick, Bangor, Portland, Fairfield and Vinalhaven have signed a similar resolution. The Times Record endorsed the resolution earlier this year, and according to the group’s website is the only newspaper in Maine to do so.

Harpswell selectmen adopted the resolution unanimously.
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