Describe importance of tackling climate for businesses, and how responding creates new opportunities
NRCM news release
South Portland, ME – About 150 people, mostly from Maine businesses, gathered in South Portland today to examine climate change from a business perspective at an event put on by the Natural Resources Council of Maine and co-sponsored by the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Community Chamber of Commerce and the E2 Tech Council. U.S. Senator Angus King was the featured speaker and moderated a roundtable discussion with five diverse Maine business leaders and the head of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.
“Maine people, including in our business community, increasingly recognize that climate change poses a significant threat to our natural resource-based economy,” said Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “And, responding to climate change means shifting toward cleaner, more local energy sources and energy efficiency, which is a very good deal for many Maine businesses and our economy overall.”
“Countless scientific reports have sounded the alarm on global warming and right here in Maine we continue to see the impacts every day,” said Senator King. “The facts are simply undeniable: climate change is real, it’s caused by humans, and it poses a significant threat to public health and to our state’s and nation’s economic livelihood. The health of the world that our children will inherit tomorrow depends on the action we take today. Fortunately, Maine has been a leader in pursuing policies that reduce emissions and generate clean energy and new jobs.”
The six panelists covered a wide range of perspectives on climate challenges, responses, and opportunities.
Don Perkins, President of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, described an evolving scientific understanding of dramatic changes on our coast and the Gulf of Maine, which is warming faster than 99% of the world’s oceans. Changes are harming sea life from shrimp to clams.
Matt Hancock, co-owner of the Mt. Abram Ski Area, said few Maine industries have as much at stake from climate change as ski areas and winter recreation. However Hancock is not standing idle—his business has made comprehensive investments in energy efficiency, wood pellet heating, and a major solar project, all of which are slashing his carbon footprint and controlling energy costs.
Sam Merrill is an analyst with GEI Engineers who helps businesses, governments, and other institutions prepare for a changing climate using sophisticated risk management tools. He is empowering them to make strategic investments in infrastructure that will reduce risks from changes such as changing sea levels and increased flooding.
Luke Livingston is the founder of Baxter Brewing in Lewiston. Baxter has built sustainability into its business model and made a variety of investments in clean energy, such as wind power. They have also invested in energy-efficiency improvements that cut energy and water bills.
John Rooks owns the SOAP group, which works with businesses to evaluate and improve sustainability measures, including carbon. His new Rapport software helps smaller businesses use energy and consumption metrics and management that larger businesses have used for years to cut costs. Baxter Brewing is one such company.
Diane Schless is a co-founder and owner of Horizon Residential Energy Services. Horizon helps design and evaluate energy-efficient housing, including affordable housing, as well as providing direct services to existing homes such as energy audits and home energy improvements. The company has experienced significant job growth.
Panelists said businesses can move forward with energy efficiency and clean energy in a wide variety of ways that positively affect the bottom line, create good new local jobs, and help protect Maine’s environment. Maine has also taken many leadership actions at the state and regional level that are helping accelerate these positive changes.
One of the most prominent positive changes is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the regional market-based program that limits carbon pollution from power plants from Maine to Maryland. The program generates roughly $15 million/year in funds that Maine invests in energy-efficiency efforts through Efficiency Maine. As of December 2013, Maine’s RGGI-funded energy-efficiency programs had saved Mainers $257 million on energy bills. Currently the program provides the bulk of funding for programs to help homeowners reduce air leakage, increase insulation, and install heat pumps and other high-efficiency heating equipment.
“RGGI is proving phenomenally successful at helping cut energy costs in Maine homes and businesses,” said Dylan Voorhees, NRCM’s clean energy director. “It is a big piece of how Maine has cut carbon emissions, experienced economic growth, and reduced energy costs at the same time.”
Maine’s participation in RGGI has positioned the state to address the EPA’s recently finalized Clean Power Plan, which puts in place the first national limits on power plant carbon pollution and represents the most significant step the U.S. has ever taken to combat climate-changing emissions. With RGGI, Maine will be on track from day one to exceed Clean Power Plan targets.
“Hundreds of Maine businesses have come forward to embrace the Clean Power Plan,” said Pohlmann. “We’re very pleased that Senator King has voiced his support for it. From a Maine perspective, it is common sense to want to see dirty power plants upwind of Maine take action, as we have, to cut pollution that is hurting our state.”