Senator Brownie Carson, Chair
Representative Ralph Tucker, Chair
Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources
My name is Dylan Voorhees and I am the Climate & Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM strongly supports this framework legislation, which we view as essential to tackling climate change in the most effective way possible. While Maine will need to adopt a range of clean energy policies (this year and in coming years) to achieve our goals, this legislation creates the guiding framework that will bring Maine people together to work in a common direction.
My testimony is focused on four points:
- Climate change is a distressing challenge; however we can still avert the most disruptive impacts.
- The options and opportunities to benefit from a clean energy transition should excite us.
- Acting now to establish a long-term pathway will save money, benefit all Maine households, and make our economy more competitive.
- By adopting this legislation, Maine will be joining the global community and dozens of states and cities with similar climate targets.
Climate change is a serious challenge
Maine is already experiencing the effects of climate change, and Maine people know it. In a poll last year, 44% of Mainers said they are already experiencing climate change, and 60% of Mainers said climate change will cause a moderate or great deal of harm in the next decade. The negative impacts Maine people are observing and are concerned about in their own lives include increased ticks and Lyme disease that threaten our health and outdoor recreation, invasive marine species and warming oceans that hurt fisheries, extreme weather that hurts farms and damages infrastructure, and more.
We must look ahead, as well. For illustration, we can consider one of the more studied impacts of climate change, sea level rise. The University of Maine’s 2015 Maine Climate Future report stated:
Global sea level is projected to rise an additional 0.5 to 2.0 feet or more by 2050. Scientists consider these ranges of estimates to be conservative, with other estimates of global sea level rise notably higher—an equivalent of 3.3 feet or more by mid-century.
More recently, the 2018 National Climate Assessment reported:
The more probable sea level rise scenarios—the Intermediate-Low and Intermediate scenarios from a recent federal interagency sea level rise report—project sea level rise of 2 feet and 4.5 feet on average in the region by 2100, respectively.
Thus we would be foolish not to expect and plan for two feet of sea-level rise over the coming decades. This will be challenging but hopefully doable, because it is all but unavoidable. However the far, far greater threat will come from not acting now to reduce carbon pollution to these “intermediate-low” levels. The National Climate Assessment goes on to say:
The worst-case and lowest-probability scenarios, however, project that sea levels in the region would rise upwards of 11 feet on average by the end of the century.
These probabilities are not primarily determined by unknown factors, they are determined by us: by whether and how much we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The future is still in our hands. Our actions now—in concert with other states and countries—will determine the face of Maine for our children and grandchildren. The mid-term and long-term emission reductions in this bill are consistent with what scientists say is needed to avert dangerous levels of climate change.
Reducing carbon pollution is an opportunity
If reducing carbon pollution was all cost, we would need to weigh the cost of acting against the cost of inaction (e.g. 11 feet of sea-level rise) and we would see that cutting carbon was a good deal. For many decades, emissions grew along with our economy. But for the last decade Maine has severed that connection, using effective strategies to reduce carbon pollution without harm to our state economy.
Reducing the costly flow of money out of our state to buy imported fossil fuels, and spending that money instead on energy efficiency and clean renewables to keep our dollars in our pocketbooks and in our state economy, is a huge opportunity. Employing strategies like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have been shown to reduce emissions while reducing energy costs for Maine homes, businesses, and industry.
Maine has no indigenous fossil fuel resources. Instead we are blessed with water, wood, wind, and sun. The downside of an old, inefficient housing stock is the opportunity to save large sums through weatherization and heat pumps. Responsible development of renewables such as solar for power (which can now heat homes efficiently and run our cars) and efficient wood for heating can all create jobs and lower energy costs.
Which path to lower carbon emissions will benefit the most Maine people? Which will be the most cost-effective? One key point of this bill to answer those questions, based on analysis and significant stakeholder and public input.
Establishing a long-term framework now is the most cost-effective choice
Many prior analyses have made one thing clear: the sooner you begin actions that reduce carbon pollution, the most cost-effective those reductions become. (This is discussed in written testimony submitted by Colby economist emeritus Tom Tietenberg.) A longer planning horizon means changes can be more gradual, which is easier and cheaper. It also means we can put more focus on ensuring that our energy transition benefits all Maine people.
Maine’s can and should join the majority who are acting on climate
Skeptics sometimes ask, whether maliciously or from misinformation, why the small state of Maine should act to reduce carbon pollution to combat a global problem. The fact is, we could not act alone if we tried. It is inaction that would make us an outlier. Every country in the world, aside from the United States, has committed to a global framework to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius. Within the United States, individual states, cities, and corporations have made their own commitment to this framework (titled the U.S. Climate Alliance.) In fact, a majority of U.S. citizens live in a participating state.
Looking specifically at the carbon reduction targets, we see that this bill keeps Maine in alignment with more than a dozen other states, from climate leaders like Oregon to Midwestern industrial powerhouses like Michigan to… New Hampshire.
|State||2050 Goal||State||2050 Goal|
|District of Columbia||80%||New Mexico||75%|
Maine is already tapping the power of collective action. In helping design and join RGGI, Maine is part of a block of states whose combined emissions make it the equivalent of the seventh largest country. By adopting clean car standards with 13 other states, Maine is helping drive car manufacturers to produce cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks.
Climate change is the challenge of a generation. With a strong framework in place, we can not only protect Maine people, our environment, and native industries, we can make Maine a better place, more affordable, and competitive and healthy.
 Fernandez, I.J. et al. 2015. Maine’s Climate Future: 2015 Update. Orono, ME: University of Maine. http://climatechange.umaine.edu/research/publications/climate-future
 USGCRP, 2018: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II [Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, 2018. https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/
 “The Economic Impacts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on Nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States: Review of RGGI’s Third Three-Year Compliance Period (2015-2017).” Analysis Group. 2018.