At the recent United Nations Climate Summit, held at the end of September, Maine Gov. Janet Mills addressed the U.N. and declared that the state of Maine will strive to combat climate change by being completely carbon-neutral by 2045.
Mills’ presence at the U.N. Climate Summit marks the first time that a Maine governor addressed the U.N. Mills joined other prominent world leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Erdogan to speak at the summit.
Mills, whose campaign leading up to her 2018 election focused on tackling climate issues, has worked hard to maintain and improve Maine’s dedication to fighting climate change.
“If our small state can do it, you can. Because, we’ve got to unite to preserve our precious common ground, for our common planet, in uncommon ways for this imperative common purpose,” Mills said, addressing the council. “Maine won’t wait, will you?”
Mills has been at the forefront of climate change initiatives in Maine since her election, and was the first governor to implement a state of Maine Climate Council, which includes members of the University of Maine faculty. The climate council strives to address climate concerns, as well as provide an accessible forum for Mainers to participate in the discourse on climate change action.
This declaration is an important step for Maine, as many of the industries in Maine would be affected by drastic climate changes. A study conducted in 2016 determined that the Gulf of Maine has been warming faster than 99.9% of the world’s oceans, which has had an enormous impact on fisheries along the coast of Maine. Maine’s economy relies heavily on fisheries, as well as the forestry industry, and drastic warming will have a detrimental effect on those industries.
Mills, who has addressed influential climate initiatives since she was voted into office, has also taken steps to monitor the emissions of Mainers. Her administration has taken part in a monitoring effort to address transportation emissions and has set aside $5.1 million to fund an electric vehicle program. She also signed a bill b made changes to a grant program in order to address the goal of installing 100,000 new heat pumps across Maine. This bill, which was signed in June of 2019, seeks to reduce Maine’s dependence on fossil fuels, stabilize energy costs across Maine and support jobs that focus on energy efficiency.
While Mills’ initiatives are cutting down on Maine’s reliance on fossil fuels, they are also lowering heating costs for Mainers. Through the installation of new heat pumps, Mainers’ heating bills are projected to drop $300 to $600 per home. This project will stimulate economic growth while providing accessible and affordable heating options for low-income Mainers.
Work to mitigate climate change has a huge impact on Maine’s treasured “wilderness” as well. In a report released by the National Audubon Society (NAS) on Oct. 10, the NAS determined that with the current rate of climate change, over a third of the bird species in Maine may be lost or threatened in the next 80 years. The study determines that the current rate of climate change would show a 3 degree Celsius warming by 2100, which would cause a massive loss of habitat for some of Maine’s most iconic species such as the black-capped chickadee, the ruffed grouse and the common loon.
While stopping climate change in its tracks is a challenge that must be tackled on a global scale, Mills’ efforts for a greener Maine will help to improve and preserve Maine’s natural landscape.