Belfast Free Library and the city's Climate Crisis Committee hosted a public discussion session Dec. 14 with the state regarding Maine’s climate action plan and what that plan means for Belfast. About 35 people attended the virtual event.

The action plan launched Dec. 1 after being in development for more than a year following Gov. Janet Mills' address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York Sept. 23, 2019, in which she made bold statements about goals to cut the state’s emissions.

“What is more precious than water, air, soil, the health and happiness of our children and our children’s children and yours? For all of them, today, by Executive Order, I am pledging that Maine will be carbon-neutral by 2045,” she said at the event.

The Maine Climate Council outlines steps and actions the state, municipalities and residents can take to meet the governor’s ambitious goals to decrease the state's greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. She also wants the state to be carbon-neutral by 2045, which means the state will remove or offset the amount of carbon it produces.

Brian Ambrette, senior climate resilience coordinator for the governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, discussed how the state will help municipalities and residents partake in the climate initiative.

He discussed the possibility of allowing green banks to operate in the state and making state and federal loans and energy discounts available to municipalities and residents for clean energy projects. The state will invest in renewable energy development as a way to grow the state’s economy and cut carbon emissions.

The plan shifts much of the state’s energy reliance from fossil fuels to the electrical grid, with the intention of using renewable sources, like solar, to power the grid.

Though Ambrette did not talk about climate solutions specific to Belfast, Nordic Aquafarms opponents Jim Merkel and Susan Cutting pressed him about how the state will be able to decrease its overall greenhouse gas emissions when it continues to permit land-based fish farming developments like the one Nordic proposes for Belfast and several others positioned to open in the state. Merkel argued they will use significant electricity and expel carbon from eight large industrial diesel generators.

Another resident who attended the virtual event asked Ambrette if he thought it was fair that ratepayers should have to pay for upgrades to Central Maine Power’s electrical grid to accommodate such developments.

While he could not answer the question regarding ratepayers because he does not work for the state’s Public Utilities Commission, Ambrette said the state’s plan will shift a lot more burden onto the electrical grid, which is something the state has to grapple with, but did not go into detail about how that would be done.

He could not answer Merkel’s question about how the state intends to offset the carbon produced by developments like what Nordic Aquafarms is proposing.

Belfast has been recognized by the state as one of the leading municipalities in addressing climate change issues. It developed a Climate Crisis Committee in 2018 to advise and investigate solutions for the city.

Belfast built three solar fields on city property that power almost all of the city’s municipal buildings and has installed an electrical car-charging station, with another in discussion. It has developed a citizen scientist program where people can track conditions in various locations around the bay including storm surges, water-level rise and other elements to determine how sea-level rise is changing the area.

For more information on the state’s climate action plan, visit maine.gov/future/initiatives/climate/climate-council.