PORTLAND — City officials from Portland and South Portland are joining forces in an unprecedented way to fight the impact of climate change.

On Monday, officials gathered at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute on Commercial Street to unveil an initiative called “One Climate Future: Charting the Course for Portland and South Portland.”

“We believe we are the only two cities to do a joint regional plan that we know of in the country,” South Portland Sustainability Director Julie Rosenbach said. “It makes a lot of sense. It is exciting. We know business as usual is not sustainable.”

The joint climate action plan aims to make sure residents and businesses in the two cities can successfully adapt to climate change. Rosenbach said it made sense for the two cities to form a joint plan because both are committed to building a more sustainable future for residents and business owners.

The ways climate change is impacting the area include increased temperatures and the warming of Maine’s waters; sea level rise; more rainfall and less snow; ocean acidification; an elevated chance of drought, and increased intensity of storms when it does snow.

Officials said sea level is expected to rise 1.5 to 3.4 feet by 2050 in Portland Harbor, which could lead to the disappearance of salt marshes, loss of beaches, flood zones moving inward and flood insurance costs rising. Two-thirds of Maine’s plant and animal species could become threatened. More rainfall could lead to increased flooding, polluted lakes and streams, loss of winter recreation revenue and a challenge to the future of Maine farming.

On the health front, increased temperatures could lead to heat-related deaths and more cases of Lyme disease.

Monday’s event was the beginning of the process of how to address such concerns. Troy Moon, the sustainability coordinator for Portland, said between now and next summer when the final plan is released, the public will have the ability to offer input through surveys and other public meetings.

The plan will have four components: building and energy use, transportation and land use, waste reduction, and climate resilience.

Building and energy use involves using energy more efficiently and transitioning to renewable energy. Transportation and land use centers around connecting residences, business and public spaces in a more efficient transportation layout. Climate resilience involves making sure all areas of the cities can withstand, respond to and recover from climate changes and waste reduction is aimed at minimizing waste by altering how residents and businesses dispose of materials.

Moon said as part of its sustainability efforts, the two cities have agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and transition to 100 percent clean energy for municipal operations by 2040.

Rosenbach said those are ambitious goals, but are “absolutely obtainable and achievable.”

“We need everybody to play a part,” Moon said. “Whether they are a resident, business owner or city official.”

Leigh Tillson, a resident of the Ferry Village section of South Portland, said she is thrilled about the joint venture.

“I am so appreciative for the communities coming together to take action so we can all be part of shaping what’s to come,” she said.

Monique Coombs, director of marine programs for the Maine Coast Fisherman’s Association, said she hopes the fishing community plays a big part in drafting the plan. Fishermen, she said, are on the front lines of climate change and “are all too familiar with how things are shifting.”

Aimee Ishimwe and Siri Pierce, juniors at Casco Bay High School, said now is the time to get involved. Both students are members of SolaRise Portland, a group of high school students who aim to raise money to place solar arrays on the roofs of Portland school buildings.

“In 2050, we will be 48,” Pierce said. “Climate change is not going to happen. It is happening and it is going to impact our generation the most.”

Pierce said for too long officials have not tackled the issue of climate change.

“We can’t afford to do that anymore,” she said.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said responding to climate change “is simply an issue we can’t get wrong.”

South Portland City Councilor Susan Henderson said it is still not too late “to create a sustainable future for future generations.”

“The survival of our planet and survival of our community depends on us,” she said.

South Portland Mayor Claude Morgan said he is excited about the One Climate Future venture and hopes it leads to other ways the two cities can collaborate.

“We can only guess what other collaboration grows from our One Climate initiative,” he said.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter:@mkelleynews

South Portland Mayor Claude Morgan, left, and Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling at the “One Climate Future” launch Monday, June 10, in Portland.

A standing-room-only crowd at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland on June 10 listens to officials from Portland and South Portland unveil “One Climate Future,” a joint venture between the two cities to fight climate change.

filed under: