But Ties for Best Policies in New England: B-
An annual global warming progress report was released today in Maine and the other nine New England states and Eastern Canadian provinces. Maine, along with Connecticut and Massachusetts, received a B-, the highest grade given on the U.S. side of the border. The report card measures progress on commitments made by the five Governors, and five eastern Canadian Premiers, in 2001 to meet global warming benchmarks by 2010, 2020 and beyond.
“Maine has been a leader so far, but we can and should do a lot more to cut global warming pollution while improving our economy and way of life at the same time,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of the report’s authors. “Maine needs to reduce our global warming pollution by 20 percent within the next three years to meet the first target. Getting there will challenge every one of us, but we already have the knowledge and the technology ready to go: fuel-efficient cars, clean renewables, energy efficient homes and appliances, and much more.”
“We need to reduce global warming pollution in the region, yet it continues to rise. We hope this report card inspires the states to increase its commitment, and helps states to learn from each other’s achievements,” said Tracy Allen, of Environment Maine, another contributor to the report.
The report finds that Maine has taken several positive steps, particularly in the electricity sector and in the actions state government has taken to “Lead by Example.” But Maine is failing to address emissions from transportation. The report cites progress including:
- Passage of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state cap on global warming emissions from power plants;
- Progress on wind power development;
- A new law that requires additional clean energy resources;
- A Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power;
- A public education effort at the Public Utilities Commission.
The report calls for a far greater state commitment to energy efficiency, especially for fossil fuels use in homes and businesses. “Heating oil bills have skyrocketed and will only get worse over time until our homes become much more efficient,” said Voorhees. “Efficient homes are more comfortable, more reliable, and more cost-effective. All Maine people would benefit if the state would play a more active role in improving the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses.”
Maine is the only state in the region that does not set a minimum efficiency standard for all new homes.
Transportation remains the weakest point in Maine’s climate actions, despite the fact that transportation is Maine’s largest source of global warming emissions. Maine has adopted global warming pollution standards for cars and trucks, but they are being challenged by carmakers in federal courts.
“On the positive side, there has been talk about increasing our use of rail in Maine, for freight and passengers. With federal funding about to run out for the successful Amtrak Downeaster, Maine’s legislature should take action now to ensure the needed investment in the future of rail,” said Allen. “Maine must make greater progress in reducing vehicle miles traveled.”
Although Maine received a “D” at the time the report was written, this November Governor Baldacci announced a significant initiative to measure climate change and pursue adaptation strategies. The Governor asked the University of Maine to produce a report on potential climate scenarios for Maine, including adaptation and monitoring. “That is a welcome and important step and we look forward to the implementation of the recommendations,” said Voorhees.
“Scientists tell us quite clearly that we have a limited window of time to prevent catastrophic levels of climate change. Fortunately we may be at a watershed moment when the people and policymakers of Maine understand this and want to make the necessary changes,” said Allen.