When it comes to grappling with the realities of our changing climate, it can be hard to know where to focus our energy and attention. Just understanding the issue can feel overwhelming, even paralyzing. When I have that feeling, I remember the Chinese proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

This spring, Maine took several important steps on the path toward mitigating climate change. In June, Gov. Janet Mills signed three bills into law that elevate Maine as a leader in this national and global effort. These new laws set Maine on a trajectory to get 80 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030; support the affordable development of solar power for businesses, municipalities, and Mainers of all income levels; and establish a Climate Council charged with developing an inclusive, actionable plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure our communities are prepared for the effects of climate change.

Impressively, each of these bills was supported by bipartisan majorities and a diverse range of constituencies. Each passed with unanimous or near-unanimous support in the state Senate, and the Climate Council bill achieved well over two-thirds support in the House. Each also reflects the genuine sentiment of Mainers that now is the time to move toward a low-carbon future: 77 percent of Maine voters believe action is needed to stop the worst effects of climate change.

Mainers should be proud of this bipartisan progress on one of the most pressing issues of our time. We should also be encouraged that we are part of a trend of states taking action. In Nevada, a bill to substantially increase the percentage of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030 – similar to our new law in Maine – passed unanimously through both chambers of the legislature. New Mexico saw significant bipartisan support for major clean energy bills, and a clean energy overhaul became law in Maryland with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan at the helm. New York, Washington, and Colorado also made historic strides toward boosting clean energy and reducing carbon emissions.

These new laws are well-aligned with Americans’ views on climate action and clean energy. A recent national poll of registered voters found that majorities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats support a range of public policies to address climate change and support clean energy. For example, 75 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Independents, and 84 percent of Democrats say that we should use more solar power.

It’s no surprise that support for clean energy and climate action is growing: in addition to the clear benefits to our environment, we’re already seeing tangible benefits to our economy. Wind technicians and solar installers are well-paid positions and the two fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. Businesses are buying more clean energy than ever before as costs continue to decline steeply. There are also big opportunities in carbon-sequestering technologies like cross-laminated timber. Our forests and farms can play a major role as natural climate solutions, while creating new financial opportunities for landowners.

Over 60 years ago, The Nature Conservancy in Maine was established to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends. Science has made clear that climate change is the top threat facing people and nature today, in Maine and around the globe. With these new policies, Maine has stepped forward as a national leader on this critical issue. These science-based laws will boost our clean energy economy, create hundreds of new jobs, and help Mainers do our part to address climate change in an inclusive way.

Governor Mills and lawmakers from all parties deserve our thanks for taking these important steps – the first of many on our shared path to a sustainable future.

 

 


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