Delivered at joint press conference with Environment Maine
by Dylan Voorhees, NRCM energy project director
Five years ago, today the governors of the six New England states and the premiers of the five eastern Canadian provinces made a historic commitment to get serious about the threat of global warming. Along with his colleagues, the Governor of Maine pledged to reduce the state’s emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide to:
• 1990 levels by 2010,
• 10 percent below that by 2020, and
• 75-85 percent below that over the long-term.
While meeting the first two goals alone will not be enough to solve the problem of global warming, they remain perhaps our most important challenge—to show the rest of the country, the rest of the world, and indeed ourselves that progress is possible. Since 2003, a coalition of groups from across the region has been evaluating progress toward these commitments. As the report released today makes clear, the region is not on track to meet its 2010 target.
However, there is some good news. In a period when most of the New England states are slipping in meeting their own commitments from 2001, Maine has moved forward, making important progress in several policy areas. We commend Governor Baldacci and his administration for the efforts they have made over the past year.
My colleague Jennifer Andersen will tell you a little more about the specific grades and those areas where Maine is doing particularly well. One of those areas is “leading by example,” and I would like to highlight one way the state can lead not through legislation or mandates, but by example.
Even though it only affects a small portion of the buildings in Maine, the requirement to use LEED-certified green building standards for all new and renovated government buildings has sent a ripple through the design and construction industries. (LEED represents nationally recognized standards for designing and constructing buildings that minimize their environmental impact and energy consumption.) This requirement encourages more builders to learn about green buildings and to become skilled in the construction them. Eager to make use of their new expertise, these builders in turn will help drive the private sector toward making the choice for environmentally friendly buildings. This effect will be even more direct when the state begins its pilot Whole House program this fall, which will train professionals to make our buildings more efficient.
The report calls for greater emphasis across the region on energy efficiency and more attention to the transportation sector, and these apply very clearly to Maine. Despite some important energy legislation passed earlier this year, Maine continues to significantly under invest in energy efficiency, despite the fact that efficiency is undeniably the cheapest and cleanest energy resource available to us. Our demand for electricity continues to grow by 1 percent per year, when we should be committing to zero growth and eventual reductions in consumption. Curbing demand through efficiency is good for the environment and saves Mainers many millions of dollars. Governor Baldacci should look to Vermont, which has funded its efficiency program so that it can invest in “all reasonably available, cost-effective efficiency opportunities.” Efficiency Maine is a good program that has shown real results, but these scratch the surface of what Maine can do. When the governors and premiers held their annual meeting last March, they adopted a resolution stressing the importance of energy efficiency but set no numeric targets. This is an area where we urge the Governor to show additional leadership.
Fortunately Maine is moving ahead to develop the regulations necessary to implement the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI), which will be an important step to cleaning up existing power plants without sacrificing economic growth.
Whether we like it or not, Maine’s progress on global warming pollution will continue to be limited by what happens in other states. We call on Governor Baldacci to strengthen his leadership on this issue, both within Maine and within New England. He has clearly shown his commitment to fighting global warming. As environmental advocates we cannot stop with this praise—it will take more to do what needs to be done. It is time for all the governors and premiers to re-engage on this issue.
The urgency with which we must move forward on global warming has been increased by scientific discoveries made since 2001 in the Arctic and Antarctic about the speed of warming and the danger of feedback loops that could push us to a tipping point sooner than expected. With the best policy grade in New England, a B, we urge the Governor not to coast, but to surge ahead.