Stressing her sense of urgency in addressing the impacts of climate change on Maine, Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday announced she would submit legislation aimed at, among other things, doubling the number of clean energy jobs to 30,000 by 2030, and further advancing cost-effective renewable energy development.

Mills also said she plans to work with lawmakers on a bond package that would promote economic recovery from the pandemic. The unspecified amount of bond money would fund community infrastructure projects that help blunt the effects of climate change such as flooding, speed the pace of home weatherization and invest in high-speed internet expansion across the state.

“Climate change will have profound implications for our state, our economy, and our people, both present and future,” Mills said. “This is why Maine won’t wait, and can’t wait, to take action …”

Mills made her remarks during an online presentation to mark the release of the state’s new Climate Action Plan by the Maine Climate Council.

Dubbed “Maine Won’t Wait, a Plan for Climate Action,” the document serves as a four-year blueprint aimed at blunting the impacts of climate change by slashing greenhouse gas emissions, while building the foundations of a clean-energy economy.

Climate change is a signature issue for Mills. In 2019, she addressed the United Nations General Assembly and pledged that Maine would become carbon neutral by 2045, meaning the state would, on balance, limit carbon dioxide emissions to what it was absorbing or eliminating. On Tuesday, she sought to elevate the significance of the plan by inviting participation by former Secretary of State John Kerry, who was selected last month by President-elect Joe Biden as his special climate envoy.

“When we depend on our own clean energy for our future, we don’t have to worry about sending people to the Middle East or elsewhere to fight and defend the source of our energy,” Kerry said in prepared remarks. “The world will be more stable. Maine won’t wait. Maine is going to lead. Maine is going to be ahead of the curve and get the job done for us and help set an example for every other state.”

The climate plan encourages a quick pivot from gasoline and heating oil, Maine’s dominant, longstanding energy options for fueling cars and warming homes. In their place, electricity from renewable generation such as wind and solar, coupled with evolving storage technology, will power electric vehicles and efficient heat pumps.

The plan has a goal of putting 41,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2025, for instance, as well as installing 100,000 high-efficiency heat pumps. This year, Maine is on pace to install 16,000 heat pumps, according to Mills.

These areas get special attention in the plan because transportation accounts for 54 percent of Maine’s climate-warming emissions, followed by 19 percent for home heating.

But if electrifying the economy makes transportation and power too expensive, not enough people and businesses will make the transition. To ease the financial burden, Mills plans to use millions of dollars from a legal settlement involving Volkswagen, and from negotiations about a planned hydroelectric line from Canada, among other sources.

The climate plan was assembled over the past 15 months by the Maine Climate Council. Both are creations of recent state laws aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions to 45 percent of 1990 levels by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050.

Despite restraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the council amassed information from 230 volunteer experts and interested stakeholders who formed six working groups and a scientific subcommittee. The general public also weighed in with comments and suggestions.

Taking the suggested steps will cost untold billions of dollars in public and private investment over the period. But doing nothing also could extract a steep cost, the climate plan emphasizes. For instance, communities may bear $17.5 billion in flood damage by 2050, as well as job losses in coastal tourism.

That’s why Mills repeatedly returned in her presentation to the theme of urgency.

Drawing a parallel to a call for action against water and air pollution 50 years ago, Mills related the story of how Maine Sen. Ed Muskie received a letter from a young girl who lived along the banks of the Little Androscoggin River and lamented the choking pollution. She asked Muskie, who went on to champion landmark clean air and water legislation, for help.

Today, Mills said, the natural world Mainers love is under attack from climate change. And Maine can’t wait to respond, although during a global pandemic and economic crisis, some say we should.

The climate plan drew expected praise from Democrat leaders in the Maine Legislature, which last year had set aggressive carbon reduction targets.

“With the release of today’s report, we now have the plan to achieve those goals,” said Rep. Ryan Fecteau, the incoming House Speaker. “We must meet this challenge and I look forward to continuing our partnership with the Mills Administration and the Maine Climate Council to create our clean energy future.”

Maine’s congressional delegation pledged to work in parallel to help advance the plan’s goals.

“In the Senate,” said Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, “I will continue to champion policies to protect our environment, such as investing in energy storage technology to unlock the potential of clean renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions and super pollutants, supporting energy efficiency and weatherizing housing for low-income families and seniors, and helping communities mitigate the effects of climate change.”

The plan also gained the support of one of the state’s largest employers, Bath Iron Works.

“The incentives that are increasing Maine’s renewable energy resources are also allowing BIW to trim its electrical costs, improving our ability to compete with other shipyards that have lower energy costs,” said Jon Fitzgerald, the shipyard’s vice president and general counsel. “Forward-looking energy policy, along with workforce training partnerships, are helping clean energy developers, BIW and the state as a whole grow the highly skilled jobs that are vital to building Maine’s economic future.”

The potential for creating jobs and economic prosperity while reducing carbon pollution also was echoed by Lisa Pohlmann, chief executive at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

“This plan will help us reduce the amount of money, currently $4.4 billion annually, that Maine people spend every year on oil and gas from out-of-state,” Pohlmann said. “As we implement this plan and create a clean energy economy, we will instead be investing that money in Maine people, Maine jobs, and energy systems that will benefit Maine’s economy, while also reducing the pollution that is contributing to climate change.”

The climate plan builds on steps the Mills administration and lawmakers have taken over the past two years to prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate change on Maine.

Maine has set some of the most aggressive renewable energy requirements in the country – 80 percent renewable energy by 2030, and a goal of 100 percent by 2050. Maine also enacted aggressive targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions into law – 45 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050, as well as pledging to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

In November, Gov. Mills announced the state’s intention to start the country’s first floating offshore wind research array in the Gulf of Maine, in partnership with the University of Maine and two leading offshore wind companies.

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