State Climate Change Plan Unveiled at Summit

Governor Martin O’Malley unveiled the State’s finalized climate change plan at a July 25th summit attended by many state legislators and officials and climate change activists.  Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan will require a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs) from their 2006 level by 2020 and outlines a broad series of recommendations for both reducing GHGs and adapting to existing climate change.

Full information on the Plan and the summit is available on the Maryland Department of the Environment’s new climate change website:  Similar to the previously released draft version of the Plan, MACo will prepare a summary of the Plan in the near future, highlighting areas of likely county concern.

In his introduction to the plan, Governor O’Malley characterized climate disruption as a “moral obligation” and “the great challenge of our time” and stressed that “we need to move from global economies of extraction to local economies of renewal.”  The Governor briefly discussed the consequences of climate change, including rising sea level; disruption of key economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism,  and the Port of Baltimore; and health system challenges.  He noted that Maryland loses 1.6 acres of land everyday due to climate change.

However, the Governor also noted that addressing climate change could generate economic benefits and create new jobs. (The Plan states that a study by the Regional Economic Studies Institute estimates that the State could see as much as a $7.3 billion increase in the state economy by 2020 by implementing the recommendations in the Plan.)

The Governor also outlined some of the key aspects of the Plan including:  (1) adopting green building and energy efficiency requirements, noting that Maryland was the first state to adopt the International Code Council’s green building code; (2) reducing energy consumption through programs like EmPOWER Maryland; (3) increasing the State’s renewable energy portfolio requirements; (4) increasing the use of mass transit; (5) planting more trees and bringing more forests into the State’s management programs; and (6) moving to a zero waste system with a goal of 80% recycling and 85% total waste diversion by 2030.

The Governor’s introduction was followed by a panel discussion on climate change impacts.  Chestertown Mayor stressed that policymakers need to show the public that you can address some aspects of climate change without being too disruptive.  She discussed Chestertown’s plastic bag ban and noted that the municipality was now moving to consider a zero waste policy.

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences President Donald Boesch stated that it is important that the Plan has strategies for both reducing GHGs and adapting to existing and predicted climate change effects.  He also stressed the need for education including a “climate literacy” program for schools.

Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO President Fred Mason, Jr. predicted that the Plan’s recommendations can help both climate change and the State’s economy.  However, he also cautioned that as Maryland transitions to a low-carbon economy, existing workers in affected industries should be forgotten.

Standard Solar President Scott Wiater discussed the opportunity for green job creation under the Plan, noting the rapid expansion of Standard Solar.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Global Sustainability and Health Program Co-Director Cindy Parker discussed the health affects of climate change, including heat stress, injuries from extreme weather events, increased risk of infectious diseases, and compromised food and water supplies.  She noted that 1 in 3 Maryland citizens are vulnerable because of their age.  Besides the children and the elderly, she also identified people with chronic diseases and the poor as being vulnerable populations.

Finally, Chesapeake Climate Action Network Mike Tidwell praised Maryland for adopting “the strongest carbon reduction plan in the [United States]” but also stressed the important of increasing renewable energy production to 40-50 percent of total energy production and limiting the use of fossil fuels like tar sands and hydraulic fracturing.

The afternoon portion of the summit included workshops on community advocacy efforts and messaging climate change, adaptation planning, and green economic opportunities.

Other Useful Links and Coverage:

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan Executive Summary

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Climate Change

July 24 Baltimore Sun Article

July 24 Baltimore Sun Opinion by Donald Boesch

July 25 Maryland Department of the Environment Press Release

July 25 Baltimore Sun Article

July 25 Salisbury Daily Times Article