In Maryland, climate change is no longer some far-away problem. It’s making life harder right now. And we are just beginning to feel the true impact of fossil fuel pollution and the global warming it continues to unleash.
But Maryland’s current climate plan, put forth by Governor Hogan and his administration, fails to match the urgency of the crisis. We need a new climate plan. It starts by strengthening the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act.
It’s “The Climate Decade”: Climate Change Is Here. Now We Have To Act.
Climate change is already making life harder in Maryland:
As the state with the second-most tidal shore communities at risk of flooding, we’re already starting to lose islands (like Fox Island) in the Chesapeake Bay due to sea level rise. Our flooding risk extends far beyond our waterfront areas, as we tragically experienced during two “thousand-year floods” in Ellicott City within 22 months. Rising temperatures have already damaged the health of the Chesapeake Bay, weakening the tourism and seafood industries that support many Maryland livelihoods. Maryland has the fourth most premature deaths in the nation caused by dirty energy-created air pollution.
But it will only get worse:
The 2020’s are projected to bring more severe storms, more dangerous flooding, and more extreme heat. Between 1981 and 2010, Maryland averaged about six days above 95 degrees per year. If we continue on our current path of greenhouse gas emissions, we will have 20 days above 95 degrees per year — more than triple that of before — by the end of the decade. Extreme heat is linked with severe negative consequences, such as decreased economic activity, increased violent crime, and worse educational outcomes.
And we’re running out of time:
This decade is also our last window of time before the climate crisis kicks into high gear. According to the world’s leading climate scientists, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we have to cut global greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 to prevent the worst climate devastation. For Maryland, one of the wealthiest states in one of the wealthiest nations, that means we need to do even more: reduce our emissions by 60 percent by 2030. Between worsening consequences and the closing window for action, it’s clear that the 2020’s will be The Climate Decade.
Under the Hogan Administration, Maryland Trails Other States on Pollution Reduction
In 2009, Maryland became one of the first states to address climate change when it passed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GGRA), requiring a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. We then expanded that law in 2016, requiring a 40 percent reduction by 2030.
However, other states have passed more ambitious reduction targets and climate scientists have since warned that we need to do more than previously understood. The IPCC issued a crystal clear message in 2018 that states like Maryland need to cut our emissions by 60 percent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2045.
And even our weak emissions goals likely won’t be met. According to the Center for Climate Strategies, an independent nonprofit that helps states and nations develop climate action plans, Maryland “is unlikely to meet state mandated emissions reductions targets in 2030 or long term decarbonization pathways needs through 2040 and 2050” due to methodological errors in the Hogan Administration’s draft climate plan.
Hogan’s current plan has the following flaws:
- It relies heavily on fracked gas as an energy source and new fracked-gas infrastructure. Fracked gas leaks at every stage in extraction and piping, emitting methane, which is 86 times worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a 20 year period;
- It makes no plan to phase out coal as an electricity source, even as the Hogan Administration’s draft climate plan includes data that shows electricity generated from coal continuing through 2040.
- It is especially flawed when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the transportation sector, due to unrealistic assumptions on widespread electric vehicle adoption, dubious claims that highway widening will result in fewer emissions, and a lack of proposed strategies for reducing car travel demand.
Meanwhile, many other states have much more ambitious emissions reduction targets and are moving forward with real plans to meet those goals. Both California and New York have set 2045 and 2050 respectively as deadlines by which their entire state economies will reach net zero emissions. Those two states also join six others in setting more ambitious medium-range emissions reduction targets. For example, North Carolina plans a 40 percent reduction in 2025 (five years before Maryland), and Colorado (50 percent by 2030), Maine (51 percent by 2030), and Vermont (58 percent by 2028) each plan to far exceed Maryland’s outdated 2030 target.
To stay a climate leader, our law needs an update to match new science. Maryland, like most of the world, has tough work ahead in the next decade when it comes to slowing climate change.
Between worsening consequences and the closing window for action, it’s clear that the 2020’s will be The Climate Decade. In other words, we have less than 900 days of the Maryland General Assembly left to act. Each one needs to count.
The Solution: The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2020
We need to move to 100 percent clean and renewable energy, greatly expand public transit and accelerate the conversion to electric vehicles, retrofit existing buildings and construct “zero emissions” new buildings, and sequester carbon pollution in forestry and healthy soils. We will need to do so in a way that protects workers and invests in communities that are on the frontlines of the climate crisis or have historically seen racial discrimination.
We can take the first step in that work by strengthening our Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act in 2020. This update to the law will align our emissions reduction targets with the world’s leading science and reposition Maryland as a climate leader. It will require fixes to our state’s flawed climate plan and take some immediate climate actions, from planting millions of new trees to increasing energy efficiency. And it will lay the groundwork for an equitable transition to a new, clean economy.
Our proposed bill will:
- Align Maryland’s emissions reduction requirements with the latest climate science, by increasing our 2030 emissions reduction goal from 40% to 60% based on 2006 levels and get us to net zero by 2045.
- Improve the Maryland Department of Environment Climate Action Plan, requiring the agency to redevelop its plan with a few changes:
- MDE will be prohibited from claiming emissions reductions from the widening of highways. Research has been clear that adding lanes of highway leads to induced demand, encouraging more cars on the road and increasing vehicle-based emissions.
- MDE will have to use a 20-year timeframe for calculating methane emissions instead of a 100-year timeframe. Methane is a relatively short-lived pollutant and gets undercounted unless measured over twenty years.
- MDE will be required to use the “best available scientific information” to ensure it uses the most recent and credible scientific rationale for calculating its emissions inventory and making methodology assumptions.
- Invest in frontline and disadvantaged communities, requiring MDE to create a Climate Justice Workgroup, made up largely of environmental justice representatives, to identify frontline and disadvantaged communities and study whether they receive an equitable portion of climate investment.
- Put workers first in climate action, creating a Climate Jobs task force that will bring union leaders, legislators, industry representatives, and climate advocates to the table to develop a pro-worker climate plan.
- Reduce greenhouse gas pollution now with the following actions:
- Energy Efficiency: The bill will increase our electricity efficiency requirements from 2% annual rate savings to 3%, moving Maryland to the top of the country.
- Electrifying State Vehicles: The bill will require 50% of state buses and 100% of the state’s light duty fleet to be Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV) by 2030.
- Zero Emissions Public Buildings: The bill will require all new buildings with at least 25% of their funding coming from the state to meet net zero emissions building standards.
- Plant One Million Trees: To aid carbon sequestration, the bill will require the state to plant one million additional trees every year for the next ten years.
- Rooftop Solar: The bill will require all new buildings with at least 20,000 square feet of roof space to install rooftop solar.
- Climate Test: The bill will require all state agencies to consider the climate impact of their decisions.
- “Twenty-Five organizations sign letter denouncing Gov. Hogan’s climate plan,” Montgomery Sentinel, 1/9/20
- “Climate change in spotlight as MD, VA lawmakers convene.” Bay Journal, 1/6/20
- “Maryland Gov. Hogan promotes energy plan, including nuclear power to reach goals for renewable sources,” Baltimore Sun, 12/17/19
- “Larry Hogan is no climate champion,” Baltimore Sun, 11/11/19
- “Report: MD Emissions Plan Will Set Climate Movement Back,” Public News Service, 12/26/19
- “The End Of The World As We Know It: How Climate Change Is Affecting Local Species,” WAMU, 1/14/20
- “Sea levels are rising, and so are risks to the Port of Baltimore,” WTOP, 12/13/19
- “Flash-flooded Frederick: Maryland’s problem with precipitation,” Frederick News-Post, 1/3/20
- “National study puts timeline on impact of sea-level rise in Maryland and Virginia.” The Washington Post, 14 July 2017
- “Fox Island has been washed away by sea level rise, forcing end of Chesapeake Bay education program.” The Capital Gazette, 10/18/19.
- “After the Water: Flash Floods Post Existential Threat to Towns Across the U.S.” National Public Radio (NPR), 11/7/19
- Factsheet: The Climate Solutions Act
- Factsheet: On Climate, Hogan Doesn’t Really “CARES”
- Bill Text: The Climate Solutions Act of 2020 (SB926/HB1425)
- Bill Outline: Proposal to Strengthen the GGRA
- Policy Review: Findings Regarding the Hogan Administration 2019 Draft Plan to Implement the Maryland Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act. Center for Climate Strategies, December 2019