A Just Climate Plan for Maine

The Maine Climate Council

Climate_strike_0920-2

Over the past year, the Maine Climate Council Working Groups have developed a set of recommendations for Maine’s next Climate Action plan.

Times have changed since the inception of the Maine Climate Council. The COVID-19 health crisis and The Movement for Black Lives have made clear in 2020 that equity and justice must be centered in our decision making. The next Climate Action Plan for the State of Maine must be based on justice and equity principles in order to protect all current and future generations of Maine. We must ensure that every person in Maine, here today and a hundred years from now, has access to a just and livable future. This includes listening to the voices of marginalized, rural, and low-income communities of Maine, and ensuring that the voices of Maine people are put ahead of corporate influence and profit.

The recommendations below were compiled by representatives from Maine Youth for Climate Justice, JustMe for JustUs, the Maine Environmental Changemakers Network, and Maine Climate Action NOW, with attention to input from youth who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

To read the full set of recommendations before signing, please read the language below. For a full, annotated version of the petition, please click here.

Petition by
Ania Wright
Bar Harbor, Maine

To: The Maine Climate Council
From: [Your Name]

To Members of The Governor’s Office of Policy, Innovation, and the Future, Members of the Maine Climate Council, and authors of Maine’s next Climate Action Plan,

Over the past year, the Maine Climate Council working groups have developed a set of recommendations for Maine’s next Climate Action plan. The following recommendations were compiled by representatives from Maine Youth for Climate Justice, JustMe for JustUs, the Maine Environmental Changemakers Network, and Maine Climate Action NOW, with attention to input from youth who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

Times have changed since the inception of the Maine Climate Council. The COVID-19 health crisis and The Movement for Black Lives have made clear in 2020 that equity and justice must be centered in our decision making. The next Climate Action Plan for the State of Maine must be based on justice and equity principles in order to protect all current and future generations of Maine. We must ensure that every person in Maine, here today and a hundred years from now, has access to a just and livable future. This includes listening to the voices of marginalized, rural, and low-income communities of Maine, and ensuring that the voices of Maine people are put ahead of corporate influence and profit.

It should be noted that due to the short public comment period, this group was unable to contact and receive feedback from all marginalized and at risk constituency groups. It is imperative that the Governor’s Office of Policy, Innovation, and the Future create a permanent and paid equity and justice task force to prevent voices from being left behind.

It is critical that the following recommendations, organized for clarity by Climate Council working group topics, be incorporated into Maine’s next Climate Action Plan:

ENERGY

Maine must decrease its carbon emissions in an ethical and equitable manner. In order for our transition to renewable energy to be just and equitable, we must highlight communities who have historically been underserved and underrepresented in decision making. Minority, marginalized, low income, and Indigenous people should be invited to be a part of the decision making process. In addition, the influence of corporations should be minimized. This is the only way to ensure that the voices of all Mainers are being heard and that they can be reassured their needs will be met. The Climate Action Plan must include:

Support for a Consumer Owned Utility. This is an immediate option that will allow for us to be able to transition and afford to electrify our state. The majority of people in Maine are served by investor owned utilities, and would benefit from the lower cost investments, worker protections, and energy efficiency programs that COUs offer.
No new investments or expansions in fossil fuels, including natural gas, and recommendations to phase out fossil fuels across sectors by 2030.
Large expansion of renewable energy supply and infrastructure. This includes expansion of wind, solar, and other renewables (and excludes nuclear and large hydroelectric), and a green bank for investments in the green energy economy, including a 100 million dollar bond for energy infrastructure investments.

COASTAL AND MARINE

Strategies, funds, and programs must be developed to protect Maine’s coastal communities and workers in the event of environmental deterioration caused by climate change. Maine is economically dependent on its marine businesses and fishing, as well as its tourism. This is largely dependent on our marine environments and coastal communities. Coastal areas are hit harder and faster by climate change than the rest of the state. Maine’s coastal strategies must go beyond serving just our beaches and shoreline communities; they must also work to better our larger ocean waters and wildlife, and the fisherpeople who rely on their health and regularity. The Climate Action Plan must include:

Allocation of funds for the adaptation of current coastal infrastructure, readily available and distributed equitably and considering intrinsic value, risk for future damage, and economic status of the community. Provide for local market infrastructure (more grants for community, university and Indigenous science and practices). During COVID-19, the communities and fishermen who have been able to sell their product locally have been more economically resilient.
Shoreline protections from coastal erosion including living shorelines, vegetative breakwaters, and traditional conservation breakwater systems.
Policies to ensure a just transition for those who could lose their jobs and livelihoods due to climate change. This includes job training, education, and compensation for those who will lose their jobs. In addition, funding and ongoing community-led research should be included to adapt fisheries to be more resilient in the face of climate change.
Develop more holistic ideas of ecosystem and industry management, including more formal overlaps between Maine DEP and DMR to solidify the connection between rivers and ocean. Providing more funding for all fisheries, not just lobster, especially in Midcoast and inland river restoration projects.
Recognize Tribal sovereignty and the historic water rights of Maine’s Tribes. Create more programs and incentives to incorporate tribal views and practices in coastal and marine institutions.

TRANSPORTATION WORKING GROUP

Great strides are needed in the improvement of Maine’s transportation infrastructure, programs, sales, and education. This is necessary to decrease the state’s greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. Maine is greatly subject to urban sprawl, pushing our per capita driving miles above the national average. Major changes must be made by the state in order to alter the transportation technology available, and citizen behavior around transportation. An effort must be made to better help Maine’s rural citizens access public and affordable electric transportation for their everyday needs, especially those more marginalized citizens who may also be low and moderate income, senior citizens, otherly abled, etc. The Maine Climate Action Plan must include:

Signing on to the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) MOU, if (and only if) it can be done in an equitable manner that does not further perpetuate systems of injustice.
Increase in funding for public transit, including having Maine invest 12 dollars per capita/year (like VT), a focus on rapid bus transit to connect Maine’s rural communities, an emphasis on expanded transport for rural Mainers, and the creation of a larger rail and high speed rail presence in Maine.
Phase out the sale of gas and diesel vehicles by 2025, and eliminate fossil fuel use by 2030.
Limit the amount of time Mainers spend using their vehicles, including an expansion of the GoME program or other improvements for ride sharing, and restructuring school bus routes to include access to other citizens. In addition, these strategies should include increasing broadband, expanding safe and protected walking and biking paths, and conscious housing development and planning that takes into account proximity to transportation hubs and workplaces.

BUILDINGS, HOUSING, AND INFRASTRUCTURE

The Maine Climate Action Plan must guide the state to higher environmental standards for all future buildings and housing. Perhaps most importantly, the state must also raise their standards for our current standing structures, and work to better the quality of all of our current buildings that are not meeting these standards. Around 80% of the homes that will be standing in 2050 are already built today. These pre-existing homes are most likely the ones that lower income and more marginalized people will be able to afford; thus making it unjust to leave these homes behind. Housing is a major struggle for many people, but especially lower income, marginalized, and young people. Climate action must include housing aid and justice. The Maine Climate Action Plan must include:

A phase out of fossil fuels, including natural gas, and home heating oil by 2030.
An equitable focus on rural and low income residents, including programs for renters and other non-homeowners. This includes the development of more low income housing for Maine residents, including multi-family housing developments, and funding resources for energy audits, programs, for low income residents. Housing justice = climate justice.
A focus on the expansion of deep energy retrofits and other programs for existing buildings, recognizing that a fair majority of buildings that will be standing in 2030 and 2050 are already built. These programs should also focus on getting rid of mold, lead, bad roofs, and other barriers to weatherizing homes.

NATURAL AND WORKING LANDS

The quality of Maine’s land and natural resources must be protected in order to ensure that opportunities and work that rely on our land are still available and plentiful for our future generations. Maine has many working lands and farms. Food accessibility for those who have been hungry should be a cornerstone of any just suggested policies involving Maine’s farms. The state should aim to protect natural lands so that their intrinsic and historic value are preserved for our youth and future generations. We should not be treating this land as a place to market new carbon offsets and turn a profit. Our natural lands are lands that were stolen from Indigenous nations, and to profit off of them or use them to offset our own emissions would be insincere and unacceptable. The Maine Climate Action Plan must include:

The preservation of Maine farmland for sustainable agricultural production. This includes respecting Tribal sovereignty and historic Tribal rights to water and trust lands.
Provide financial incentives for biodiverse open space
Uplift principles of food sovereignty, including access to food as a human right, localized food systems, and a food system in harmony with the natural world.
Protections against offset programs. Programs that allow for ‘net zero’ or ‘carbon-neutral’ emissions will not reduce our state emissions to what is necessary: zero emissions by 2030.

COMMUNITY RESILIENCE, PUBLIC HEALTH, AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

Maine’s citizens must be protected equally and equitably in the case of emergencies and sudden changes. Climate change has already, and will continue to, alter the patterns and regularity of our natural forces and occurrences. It is imperative that new aid and opportunities be offered to everyone, but that those who have been underserved or disadvantaged be prioritized. It is also crucial that the state work to better educate its community members on the changes and potential disasters that have already happened, and will undoubtedly continue due to our climate crisis. Our communities must be well educated on the dangers of climate change if they are to ever know how and when to ask their state for help. Maine’s Climate Action Plan must include:

Eligibility for all in safety and relief packages (regardless of status or income).
Just transition strategies, including job training and compensation for those who will lose their jobs, and strategies that will actively uplift marginalized and at risk communities. This includes worker protections such as overtime expansion, paid family medical leave, and ending forced arbitration.
Progressive tax structures, especially on any gas or carbon tax.
An expansion of education and access, including education training for students and teachers, the creation of a Governor’s Academy for Climate Education, a formal climate education stakeholder process, and a requirement that climate change science and social studies be taught in all schools K-12 by 2030. More detail on these recommendations can be found in the following section.
Expanding broadband, which will allow more people to work and get an education at home.
Healthcare for all, with attention to the impact on mental health and physical health, including opportunities for paid sick leave and policies that lower the burden of healthcare costs.
Protections and expansions for Indigenous sovereignty in Maine. “Native sovereignty, when minimal and unjust, is nothing more than a gag on a community that’s been robbed of everything. Insufficient sovereignty of Native American communities is the equivalent of stealing someone’s loaf of bread that feeds them for the week, and then giving them back a single slice and saying “you can eat it however you like!” Sovereignty and land will ensure that tribes in Maine will be able to not only recover their ways of life and emancipate themselves from colonial oppression, but also best prepare them for the climate crisis.
As racial justice is critical to climate resilience, adaptation, and justice, the next Climate Action Plan must align with the demands of Black Lives Matter Maine.
For example, Black Lives Matter calls to invest in communities, not the police. During the COVID-19 pandemic, what has helped communities and at risk individuals survive includes food pantries, hospitals, and mutual aid groups. Defunding the police in Maine could also provide a source of funding for climate resilience and community projects.
Create a task force on public education to provide students and teachers with climate justice curriculum that is culturally appropriate and accurate.

In order to make these goals a reality, the following changes must be made to the Maine Climate Council Working Group Recommendations:

Energy Working Group recommendations:
Strategy 1 - Renewable Portfolio Standard - This strategy should include insurance that principles of a just transition will be met, and safeguards to insure that renewable energy is available for all, regardless of status or income.
Strategy 2 - Power sector transformation process - This strategy should include a limit on power utilities and private entities in the stakeholder process in order to maximize authority of Maine residents.
Strategy 3 - Contracting authority for CHP - This strategy should include safeguards to protect ratepayers.
Strategy 4 - Renewable fuel standard - This strategy should include safeguards to protect low income, rural, and marginalized communities from cost changes, utility costs, and infrastructure changes. In addition, the Governor’s Energy Office and all stakeholders should commit to ban fossil fuel use in the state by 2030.
Strategy 5 - Financing - This strategy must ensure that any carbon pricing model is progressive and does not harm low income communities in Maine, who may be the least responsible for the climate crisis in the State. Focus taxes on large emitters in the state and on high income residents.

Coastal and Marine Working Group Recommendations:
Strategy 1 - Track climate impacts - Give special attention to species important and significant to Maine Tribes. Ensure that data is not only publicly available, but also publicly accessible.
Strategy 2 - Technical Assistance - Ensure that businesses can join the business council at no cost if that presents a barrier. Provide assistance and research to a just transition of Maine’s fishing jobs that may not be available in the future due to warming water. Ensure that all fishing industry, not just lobster, is included and supported in project and scientific efforts. Support and uplift tribal sovereignty. Support expansion for existing Tribal monitoring systems, support sustenance fishing and sustenance harvesting for Tribal communities.
Strategy 3 - Enhance Mitigation - Ensure that Blue Carbon offsets do not limit the potential for carbon emissions reductions.
Strategy 4 - Nature Based Solutions - Include rivers in this proposal
Strategy 5 - Manage for Resiliency - Ensure aquaculture does not have negative impacts on the environment or communities. Incentivize more localized fisheries/community food programs to address food insecurity and food sovereignty.
Strategy 6 - Working Waterfronts - Ensure that all industries are supported.

Transportation Working Group Recommendations:
Strategy 1 - Electric Vehicles - Ensure that any EV program offers more acceptable tax benefits and loan offers for buying electric vehicles. Ensure that equal funding is given to public transportation as EV infrastructure, in order to make transportation more accessible to all areas and income brackets.
Strategy 2 - Reduce emissions from Combustion Engines - Require freight companies to participate in the US EPA SmartWay program. Expand state emissions programs to be required in all counties. Encourage rideshare and public transportation in public education. Emphasize rural populations who have higher VMT. Ban the use of combustion engine sales by 2030, provided that public transportation and electric vehicle infrastructure is adequate.
Strategy 3 - Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled - Increase in funding for public transit, including having Maine invest 12 dollars per capita/year (like VT), a focus on rapid bus transit to connect Maine’s rural communities, an emphasis on expanded transport for rural populations, and the creation of a larger rail and high speed rail presence in Maine. Phase out the sale of gas and diesel vehicles by 2025, and eliminate fossil fuel use by 2030.
Strategy 4 - Maine’s Critical Infrastructure - Ensure that infrastructure funds are distributed appropriately, not only to riverine and coastal areas, but to rural and other at risk areas in the state.
Strategy 5 - Funding - ensure that any funding strategy will not perpetuate systems of injustice, and will hold historical polluters accountable without burdening those least responsible for the climate crisis.

Buildings, Housing, and Infrastructure Working Group Recommendations:
Strategy 1 - Design and Construction of New Buildings - push for building codes to develop a roadmap to reach zero emissions by 2030.
Strategy 2 - Cleaner Heating and Cooling Systems - Exclude expansion of natural gas. Phase out fossil fuels by 2030. Phase out the sale of combustion appliances by 2025.
Strategy 3 - Improve Efficiency and Resiliency of Existing Buildings - Ensure that building programs do not perpetuate systems of injustice. Create and uplift structures that allow more low and moderate income households to benefit from programs.
Strategy 4 - Publicly-Funded Buildings - Housing justice is climate justice. The impacts of climate change disproportionately affect those who are houseless, so addressing houselessness must be a part of this strategy.
Strategy 5 - Decarbonize Industrial Processes - Create requirements for industry to decarbonize by 2030.
Strategy 6 - Modernize the Electric Grid - Support a Consumer Owned Utility in order to create more incentive and capital for beneficial electrification.


Natural and Working Lands Working Group Recommendations:
Strategy 1 - Finance - Explore measures outside of a sustained funding source to ensure permanent protection for lands
Strategy 2 - Incentives - Enforcement and regulation that does not negatively impact the most vulnerable should be used instead of only incentives. Checks and balances must be established to ensure industry accountability. Incentivize making land more accessible to youth, BIPOC, New Americans, and low-income folks seems important to directly address here (it is mentioned that New American farmers would benefit from these incentives but there should be a more direct intention to reach and support these groups who are often at a financial disadvantage when it comes to land ownership).
Strategy 3 - Technical Assistance - Make assistance programs accessible and free, with special attention to reaching groups like New Americans. While New American and low-income farmers are listed as those to benefit from this proposal there needs to be a more directed intentionality to support not only New American farmers and low-income farmers but also BIPOC and young farmers - these benefits should be expanded to directly and intentionally support these groups and their specific needs. Attention to equity and just transition is vital in the creation of new jobs.
Strategy 4 - Programs and Policy - Put an emphasis on climate education. Create checks and balances for the industries like the forest industry. Address the use of urban spaces and their potential role for carbon sequestration. Food justice, sovereignty, and access must play a critical and intentional role in policy and programs.
Strategy 5 - Research and Data Collection - Ensure all data is made publicly available.

Community Resilience Sub-Group Recommendations:
Strategy 1 - Reviewing Maine’s Laws - Include a review of healthcare policy, housing laws, clean air laws, labor laws, and energy/utility laws.
Strategy 2 - Technology Transfer - Encourage town level initiatives for equity and social justice in town resilience plans in order to ensure a safe future for all town and city residents. Put emphasis on the education of local people.
Strategy 3 - Finance Mechanisms - Preference for funds and finance mechanisms should be given to low income, BIPOC, and communities that do not have the resources or understanding of climate risks. These communities are at the highest risk in the face of climate change. If preference is given to proggressive, well financed communities that are already conducting projects, gaps between those who are prepared for climate change and those who are not will only grow deeper, and it can be predicted that climate issues will become more partisan within the state.
Education - though there was not a formal education working group, the following recommendations should be considered in the Community Resilience Sub-Group recommendations:

Systemic and equitable access to quality climate education is critical in building a climate literate citizenry that will continue to uphold the climate plan’s vision of a carbon neutral Maine by 2045. Equitable access to quality climate education increases climate literacy, prepares Mainers to enter the growing green jobs workforce boosting our economy and increasing the resilience of our communities. Although it is a critical element in efforts to address climate change; Climate education has not been a significant focus in the climate council task forces. The statewide, youth-led climate education task force, made up of students, educators, and community education organizations, of the Nature Based Education Consortium, has developed the following climate change education recommendations to be considered by the climate council:

Strategy 1 - The creation of a Maine Governor’s Academy for Climate Education should be established in the next 2 years. The Governor’s Academy would bring together teachers, students, and community partners to engage in training and co-design processes that result in maine-based climate education curricula and student designed projects. At the conclusion of a year-long cohort a library of relevant and easily digested Maine-centered, cross disciplinary climate curriculum will be created that can be used throughout the public school systems of Maine. The result of a successful Governor's Academy are teachers who have the training and tools to teach climate education topics across disciplines with confidence, and an increased number of Maine students who are well informed climate and environmental justice leaders, with the skills and knowledge to enter the green jobs workforce. This strategy is modeled off the successful Governor's Academy of STEM Education Leadership led by the Maine Math and Science Alliance.

Strategy 2 - In the next 2-5 years, there should be the creation a Maine Climate Education statewide program facilitated by the Maine Department of Education, in collaboration with the Nature Based Education Consortium’s Climate Education Task Force, that provides support for school districts in all 16 counties and community partners to launch programs for teacher training linking Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and common core with climate science and justice education. In addition to teacher professional development around implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, the project will support schools and districts to work with community partner organizations, climate scientists and climate justice experts, to develop open-sourced instructional materials, design related assessment tasks and evaluation strategies, and facilitate student-led climate education projects. This strategy is modeled off Washington State’s successful ClimeTime program, a systemic climate science education effort.

Strategy 3 - By 2030, climate education should be taught in all Maine public schools (prek-12) with an interdisciplinary approach. It is recommended that a statewide climate education task force be developed to build an equitable pathway to systemic adoption of climate education in Maine public schools ensuring that curricula and training is developed first, such as the Governor's Academy and the Climate Education Program, so Maine teachers feel prepared and confident in teaching climate education across content areas. This is a long term, statewide recommendation to advance systemic climate education in Maine.

Public Health Sub-Group Recommendations:
Strategy 1 - Invest in Public Health Education and Monitoring - Make water testing for private and public wells mandatory and accessible for all. Collection of data on demographics including race, age, ethnicity, gender, disability, etc, to identify socially vulnerable populations in the State should be made a high priority. Data collection should ensure the safety of all communities in Maine and personal data on citizen status should not be collected. Funding and resources should be prioritized to these communities.
Strategy 2 - Public Education Campaign on Climate Change Health Effects - Any education should be culturally appropriate and locally delivered to increase trust in public health. Access to broadband should be made a priority. Add energy programs and air conditioning programs for low income and marginalized communities. Incorporate public school education and incorporate climate justice into the curriculum.
Strategy 3 - Reduce Impacts from High Weather Events - Expand capacity to private homeowners, businesses, municipalities, non-homeowners, renters, and at risk communities. Expand beyond exclusively drinking water recommendations to include building protection and creating shelters for heat and cool protection for at risk communities. Allow the CDC and Maine DEP to go beyond national requirements for agriculture, chemical use, and construction practices in all watersheds. Respect Tribal Sovereignty.
Strategy 4 - Health System Climate Strategies - This strategy should be expanded to include all major industries and public buildings within the state of Maine, not just hospitals. Requirements for carbon neutrality should include a commitment to no fossil fuel use, and no new investment in fossil fuels.
Additional Recommendations - All additional recommendations from stakeholders of the sub-group should be supported and included in the Climate Action Plan. These are all critical recommendations to the people of Maine.

Emergency Management Sub-Group Recommendations:
Strategy 1 - State Infrastructure Climate Adaptation Fund - This fund should give priority to underfunded towns and communities at the highest risk of climate impacts. Low and zero interest loans should be provided to at risk communities and individuals.

Thank you for your time and consideration of our recommendations.