Opportunities Seen for Major Pollution Reductions from Electricity, Transportation Sectors
AUGUSTA — In order to help the state meet global warming pollution reduction goals set by Governor Baldacci and other Northeast Governors, a report released today by the Natural Resources Council of Maine – A Blueprint for Action — lays out the critical elements of climate-friendly policies that should be included in Maine’s Climate Action Plan.
“To significantly reduce global warming pollution in Maine, the state needs stronger energy efficiency programs, more clean, renewable wind and solar power, and better car emission standards,” said Sue Jones, one of the report’s authors and the Energy Project Director for NRCM. “None of these is a ‘pie in the sky’ recommendation – other states have already adopted them.”
The report predicts that without action, Maine’s direct global warming emissions from all sources other than electricity generation will increase by about 32% between 1990 and 2020, while regional emissions from the New England-wide electricity sector could increase about 42% over the same time period.
In 2001, the Governors of the New England States and the Premiers of the Eastern Canadian Provinces set goals to reduce global warming pollution in the region to 1990 levels by 2010; 10% below 1990 levels by 2020; and 75-85% below current levels in the long term, to reduce human harm to our climate. That regional plan was viewed as a major step forward for efforts to control rapidly rising levels of global warming pollution. Since then states and provinces have been working to craft plans that will achieve the necessary reductions. Last year, Governor Baldacci signed these targets into Maine law, and embarked on a major initiative to help Maine meet these targets, which included kicking off a year-long effort to create Maine’s own Climate Action Plan, which is expected to be complete this fall.
“Governor Baldacci has shown great “leadership by example” in reducing global warming pollution in Maine during his tenure,” said Matthew Davis of Environment Maine. “Now he needs to take the next step and ensure that the State adopts a strong Climate Action Plan that outlines how the state will meet – or exceed — those goals. Blueprint for Action outlines the policies that are essential to a successful Climate Action Plan.”
Blueprint for Action calculates the expected global warming pollution reductions from a mix of clean energy policies and compares the “clean energy” scenario to the “base case” scenario. The report finds that adopting 14 key policy options will get the state a large part of the way toward meeting its 2010 and 2020 targets.
The policies recommended in Blueprint for Action include stronger energy efficiency programs; additional use of clean, renewable wind and solar power; emissions standards for cleaner cars, among others. All of the policies are being implemented in at least one other state. Adoption of these policies will bring immediate benefits — in reduced global warming pollution, smog and ozone, reduced public health emergencies and threats, and significant energy savings to all consumers.
“This report shows that Maine has an opportunity to join other states in adopting common sense, reasonable measures that fight global warming and save on energy costs to consumers,” state Melissa Carey, Climate Change Policy Specialist at Environmental Defense. “Action on global warming is about the legacy we leave to future generations. This report highlights important opportunities for Maine to take real action toward achieving the goal of a stable future for the next generation.”
Also critical to Maine meeting its target goals are forestry policy options that help reduce global warming pollution. During the development of the Action Plan, scientists and stakeholders were surprised to learn that Maine’s current forestry practices are contributing to global warming. “There are ways we can turn Maine’s vast forests into an asset in the effort to meet the targets set by the Legislature,” states Kate Dempsey, Government Relations Coordinator, Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “In addition to these 14 policy options, we need to create options and opportunities for sound forest management to be part of the solution to global warming.”
A significant finding of the report is that Maine’s biggest challenge will be cutting transportation emissions, which are rising rapidly as people drive less efficient vehicles, and more miles each year. Despite the expected challenge, the report identifies six policies that can be implemented today that would achieve significant reductions in pollution levels from the transportation sector, which accounts for 46% of all carbon emissions in Maine.
A combination of emissions standards for cars and trucks, measures to help reduce the number of miles driven, and other programs would reduce global warming pollution in 2020 by 120 thousand metric tons of carbon equivalent (MMTCE) by 2010, which is nearly 48% of the reductions in direct emissions necessary to hit the regional goal.
“We know the important first steps toward cleaner transportation policy: more efficient vehicles and reducing vehicle miles traveled,” said Jones. “Maine needs to commit to adopt those steps today, and devise other policies and practices to reduce all major sources of global warming pollution.”