How do city's plans compare to Mills’ ambitious carbon goal?

By Kendra Caruso | Oct 11, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso A large and diverse crowd turned out in downtown Belfast Sept. 20 to protest climate change.

Belfast — Even as a Belfast committee contemplates the impact of climate change on the city, Gov. Janet Mills outlined carbon neutrality goals for the state before the United Nations. On Sept. 23, she addressed the Climate Action Summit during the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

“By executive order, I have declared that the state of Maine will be carbon neutral by 2045.” Mills stated in her speech, the first by a sitting Maine governor to the U.N. “And if our small state can do it, you can as well. Because we’ve got to unite to preserve our precious common ground for our common planet, in uncommon ways for this imperative common purpose. Maine won’t wait, will you?”

Mills didn’t provide details in her two-minute speech about how she intends to achieve this goal. Earlier in the year she signed a bill that would require an 80% carbon-based electricity reduction by 2030 in Maine and a 100% reduction by 2050.

To become carbon neutral, she established the Maine Climate Change Council to address the issue and start proposing changes to mitigate, prepare and adapt to climate change by Dec. 1, 2020. Carbon neutral means eliminating all carbon emissions or removing any carbon released.

Mills signed an executive order on the new goal the same day she announced it. In the order, she requires that any policy or program implementation to mitigate climate change must grow Maine’s economy.

In Belfast, Climate Crisis Committee Chairman Jonathan Beal said he thinks Mills’ goals are very ambitious but necessary to avoid irreversible tipping points. He believes the governor’s goal will help boost Belfast’s response to climate change with more state support.

The Climate Crisis Committee is in the process of investigating how the city is vulnerable to climate change. After extensive public input, research and analysis, the group will give recommendations to the City Council, but Beal said he doesn’t know when that will be.

The committee held one of several planned public meetings to discuss residents' perceptions of climate change and their concerns. It will use this information to steer adaptation and mitigation plans to address those concerns.

The committee already has issued a report on sea level rise, which says the city could see a 2- to 11-foot rise, and offers recommendations about actions the city can take to adapt. The committee is placing a weather monitor near the bay to collect wind and atmospheric information, and water level shifts.

The city installed a solar field that powers 90% of the new Public Works Building's electrical needs. It is part of the city’s goal to become carbon free in all its public buildings.

At a recent City Council meeting, City Planner Sadie Lloyd Mudge spoke about multiple pitches from solar companies to install 20-acre-panel plots to power parts of the city. At another recent meeting, councilors approved a new fast-charge electric car charging station.

Beal said the committee’s response might appear slow to the general public, but he said it is trying to use the best knowledge to develop policy. The committee does not want to create bad policy based on a knee-jerk reaction.

“We are moving with all deliberate speed,” he said.

 

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