Representatives from the Maryland Commission on Climate Change (MCCC) discussed the the current and future status of climate change efforts in Maryland at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference. The panel was called “Rising Tides: Charting Maryland’s New Climate Change Path” and was moderated by MACo Legal & Policy Counsel Les Knapp.
Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Co-Chair and Gordon Feinblatt LLC Member Michael Powell provided the background of the MCCC. Powell noted that in 2012, Maryland adopted a greenhouse gas
reduction goal of 25% of 2006 emissions by 2020 and recently adopted a new goal of a 40% reduction by 2030. The draft action plan for the new 40% goal is due in 2018. Powell stated that Maryland’s goals are basically same as those found in the Paris Accords and that the state is on track to meet the 2020 goal. Powell noted that if current trends undertaken for the 2020 goal continue and no federal climate change programs are repealed, then the state will also be close to meeting the 2030 goal.
Powell assumed that electric vehicles, a green energy grid, healthy soils, zero waste efforts, and transportation improvements would all be part of the State’s new plan for the 2030 goal. Powell also noted that there were some other proposals not currently in the plan but would be reviewed, including: a carbon Tax, including greenhouse gas emissions in all governing decisions, requiring 2% incremental energy efficiency improvements, increasing Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), tighter caps under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), restricting methane emissions from landfills and wastewater treatment plants, a “vehicle miles traveled” tax, adoption of electric school buses, strengthening building codes, prohibiting new landfill capacity after 2019, increasing local government recycling rates to 60%, and requiring more aggressive compact development.
Powell noted that Maryland did not have to undertake all of these policies and could be selective. Powell also stressed the importance of tracking economic impacts stemming from these policies.
Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Working Group Co-Chair and Chesapeake Climate Action Network Executive Director Mike Tidwell argued that time is running out and that both the state and local governments must be aggressive in responding to climate change. Tidwell cited extreme weather examples and a projected 6-9 foot sea level rise by 2100.
Tidwell stressed the need to adopt renewable energy within 15 years and keep 80% of all know reserves of fossil fuels in the ground. Tidwell disagreed with Powell’s assessment that the state is on track to meet the 2030 goal. Tidwell also complimented Maryland Governor Larry Hogan on his support for the 2030 goal, the 2017 EMPOWER Act, and the recently enacted ban on natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Maryland. Tidwell criticized Hogan for his recent veto of legislation that increased the RPS to 25%.
Maryland Secretary of the Environment and Commission Chair Benjamin Grumbles described how the MCCC has taken a consensus-based approach to the new plan. Regarding mitigation, Grumbles noted that RGGI and better interstate cooperation on electric vehicles and transportation issues will be critical. Regarding adaptation, Grumbles stressed that Maryland is at risk from both sea level rise and subsidence and needs to strengthen our infrastructure to make it more resilient and avoid locating it in severely affected areas. Grumbles state that this must be done collaboratively with the counties and not “be dictated from the top down.” Finally, Grumbles briefly touched on how climate change will factor into the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).