Anna Siegel, a 13-year-old organizer for Maine’s role in the global climate strikes, stood up to speak at an Oct. 8 council meeting. Contributed

SOUTH PORTLAND — City councilors vowed Oct. 8 to speed up climate change mitigation after several youth activists urged them to address the issue.

The resolution passed Tuesday will require the city to advocate for accelerated climate action on a local level. The city must take climate resilience into future consideration, set aside funding for climate initiatives and support federal policies such as a carbon tax.

The resolution also includes a commitment to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Last year, city officials took up the action after receiving separate resolutions from the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and teenage activists from the Maine chapter of the national group Youth Climate Strikes, two groups that have staged hundreds of climate strikes nationwide, including a recent well-attended rally in Portland.

Anna Siegel, 13, of Yarmouth, who leads the Maine chapter of Youth Climate Strikes, said she doesn’t know if she’ll have a future if climate change goes unaddressed.

“It’s not every day I go up to places like this and admit I’m terrified, but I need to do this,” Siegel told the council. “The resolution is not just another climate action plan. By declaring a climate emergency the city will join 40 other cities across America … South Portland can lead that change and protect its people.”

Dr. Priscilla Skerry said it’s important to take the demands of youth seriously, as they will likely be affected by mass migrations of people due to the impact of climate change to other parts of the world, with the potential of causing conflicts and wars. Passing the resolution is a good start, she said, but there is much to do.

Portland Global Climate Strike co-organizer Cassie Cain said it’s not right that youth are sacrificing their time and health to pick up the slack for older generations.

“It’s been hard for me to recognize we’re leaving them this kind of challenge,” Councilor April Carichillo said. “I’m so grateful to be in this community and know we’re going to do this together and we’re not going to stop.”

The newly implemented rules are part of a joint adaptation plan with the city of Portland that aims to address climate change at a rapid pace. Other municipalities are reviewing similar resolutions.

“I’ve been around a long time and I’ve never seen this type of cooperation between two cities,” said resident Tim Honey. “But you need a framework of urgency to get the work done and that is what the students are bringing to the table. Next, they go to Portland, but South Portland can take the lead.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: