Gov. Janet Mills will speak before the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday about Maine’s efforts to respond to climate change, becoming the first sitting Maine governor to address the international body.

The Democratic governor was invited to speak by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Mills’ office said Friday. She will deliver two minutes of remarks about her administration’s new action plan, which calls for an 80 percent reduction in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; jump-starting renewable energy; and assessing and addressing sea level rise, ocean acidification, and other impacts.

“This is a global threat that all states and all countries must confront together, and Maine will do its part,” Mills told the Press Herald in an email. “I look forward to standing before leaders of the world, sharing Maine’s significant achievements, and calling upon our national and international neighbors to step up and do their part in this critical fight for our future.”

Gov. Janet Mills addresses the U.N. climate summit on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019.

Environmental groups are pleased the governor will be taking her message to the global stage. “We think it’s fantastic, and she’s earned a place on that platform,” said Pete Didisheim, advocacy director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of the state’s most influential environmental groups. “She’s made it clear she’s beyond just talk and that she’s about action and action based on science.”

Kate Dempsey, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Maine said her organization was pleased Mills was being recognized  “as a national and global leader” on climate change. “The future of Maine’s communities and our natural places depends on moving toward a low-carbon future,” she said in a statement.

Mills’ remarks will take place amid the U.N. Climate Action Summit 2019, which is intended to bring government, private sector and international organizations together to develop aggressive plans to respond to the climate change threat.

Mills will remain in New York on Tuesday and meet with European Union officials to look for ways that the United States can work with European governments on climate issues. Later, she will join a panel discussion with five other Democratic governors to discuss state level action to reduce U.S. greenhouse emissions in accordance with the Paris Climate Accord. President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris agreement.

Tuesday evening, Mills will deliver opening remarks at the premiere of a short documentary film, “Shellfish Growers Changing the Game on Climate,” which features Maine oyster hatchery owner Bill Mook, who had to adapt his operations to cope with one of the side effects of climate change, ocean acidification.

After years of inaction under Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Mills signed a climate action bill into law June 26 that requires Maine to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and by at least 80 percent by 2050.

It created a 35-member Maine Climate Council tasked with developing specific plans to meet these goals, as well as monitoring the effects of ocean acidification, warming ocean temperatures, and changes in the salt and dissolved oxygen content of the gulf, an expected side effect of warming. The council – co-chaired by Hannah Pingree, director of governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, and Jerry Reid, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection – will have its first meeting Thursday in Hallowell.

“Climate change threatens all that we hold dear in Maine, from our fisheries, to our forests, to the very future of our beautiful state. With Washington’s failure to act, it’s now up to states like Maine to fight climate change head-on,” Mills said in the statement emailed to the Press Herald. “And we will not wait.”

Maine is at the forefront of climate change because the Gulf of Maine is the second fastest-warming part of the entire world ocean. The rapid warming, a side effect of climate change and the Arctic meltdown, is expected to have dramatic effects on the marine ecosystem and the communities that rely on it and is already adversely effecting clammers, aquaculture operations, and the recovery of cod stocks.

Former Maine Gov. Edmund S. Muskie spoke before the United Nations General Assembly while serving as Secretary of State in the Carter Administration, to rebuke the Soviet Union for its occupation of Afghanistan.

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