Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is advocating more than 150 programs and initiatives that support his state’s ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% by 2020, a plan that goes farther than any other state except Massachusetts.
Aside from supporting a 55 million metric ton reduction in GHG emissions, the plan will generate $1.6 billion in economic benefits, create more than 37,000 jobs and positively impact public health, Governor O’Malley told business leaders, scientists, and environmental and renewable energy advocates who attended his state’s summit on climate change last week in Linthicum, Md.
“Climate change is not an ideological issue any more than gravity is: it’s not about whether we move left or right, but whether we make the right choices for Marylanders. As severe weather events continue to grow in size and impact, and elongated trends of poor air quality continue, the costs of inaction would grow exponentially,” says Governor O’Malley. “In Maryland, we are moving forward and taking action by creating green jobs and protecting our land, water, air and public health.”
For more than six years, Governor O’Malley has been one of the most vocal national leaders for taking action on fighting climate change. Many of the programs announced in late July are expansions of existing efforts, meant to accelerate progress toward the bigger goals. He signed the state’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009, requiring Maryland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% from a 2006 baseline by 2020. The act will be up for another vote in 2015, which means state lawmakers will have to decide whether to stick with it or develop a new framework.
Governor O’Malley’s administration isn’t waiting around for that. Here are some of the main strategies that support the state’s reduction goal:
Accelerated renewable portfolio standards – The state currently requires for Maryland power providers to source 18% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, increasing to 20% by 2022. The new plan seeks an increase beyond the 20% to drive additional GHG emissions reductions. Earlier this year, Maryland became the first state to subsidize offshore wind development, which is being held back by huge upfront costs for developers. It is also one of the “Dazzling Dozen” states leading the way in solar installations.
Strengthened energy-efficiency measures – The EmPOWER Maryland program aims to reduce both Maryland’s per capita total electricity consumption and peak load demand by 15% by 2015, but the governor is calling for a higher goal.
A zero waste target – The state is adopting a strategy to ensure all products in Maryland can be reused, recycled or composted. Currently, the state requires that 60% of “government managed” waste be better utilized or recycled by 2020. The average county recycling rate is 45%.
Tougher emissions standards – The Maryland Clean Cars Program directly regulates carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, effective with model year 2011 vehicles.
Improved regional cooperation – Maryland is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the cooperative cap-and-trade initiative that includes nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The RGGI voted to lower the regional emissions cap, and Maryland will work on changing its own standards this summer.
Many of these programs are in place; they will be strengthened through new policies and policies, says Governor O’Malley.
They have strong support within the state: a recent George Mason University report shows that 86% of Marylanders believe climate change is happening, while three-quarters of them believe that state and local governments should take action to protect communities from the impacts.
“Science is clear that climate change is occurring, is caused primarily by human activities and poses significant risks to Maryland as it does to the rest of the world” says Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “Significant reductions in emissions must be made over just a few decades to avoid the worst of the consequences and Maryland has an opportunity and a responsibility to lead.”
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