Sine Die: MD leadership must address climate change when GA reconvenes

Climate Advocates to Maryland General Assembly Leaders: Address Climate Change During May Special Session

CCAN Action Fund Applauds Governor, General Assembly Leaders for Proactive Coronavirus Response

Due to Shortened Session, Maryland Running Out of Time to Address Climate Crisis

ANNAPOLIS, MD — With the Maryland General Assembly adjourning Sine Die today — ending the 2020 legislative session early to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) — climate advocates are urging Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones to prioritize at least one comprehensive climate bill in the special session planned for late May.

“Climate advocates join fellow Marylanders across the state in thanking Governor Hogan, President Ferguson, and Speaker Jones for their proactive leadership in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” said Steven Hershkowitz, Maryland Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund. “When it is safe to gather again to do the people’s work, we urge the General Assembly to prioritize solutions to the climate crisis. With just ten years left to cut our climate pollution in half, we must make the most of our remaining time — or global warming will exceed dangerous and irreversible levels.”

Several important climate bills were on their way to passage before the legislature halted their work, including the Climate Solutions Act (HB1425/SB926). That legislation — which would align Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction requirements with leading climate science and reduce millions of metrics tons in climate pollution through energy efficiency gains, planting millions of trees, and other measures — received a bipartisan 8-2 vote from the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs (EHEA) Committee, as well as approval from the Budget and Taxation Committee on Monday morning.

The House Environment Subcommittee had previously held two “read-throughs” of the bill in anticipation of the Senate passing the legislation. The full Environment and Transportation Committee was expected to act, but the Senate ran out of time.

Several other important climate bills passed one chamber, only to have the other chamber fail to act before the premature Sine Die:

HB561, sponsored by Del. Lorig Charkoudian and as amended by the House of Delegates, would create a Community Choice Energy pilot program in Montgomery County. By pooling ratepayers together, the legislation would create greater ratepayer choice on electricity generation, increase renewable energy, and lower electricity rates. The bill received a strong 93-37 vote in the House, but did not get a vote in the Senate Finance Committee.

SB656, sponsored by Sen. Ben Kramer, would require the Public Service Commission (PSC) to consider climate change when making decisions, including on power plant approval. Right now, the PSC does not consider the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals despite making decisions that could make it harder for the state to achieve such goals. This bill passed 32-14 in the Senate, but did not get a vote in the House Economic Matters Committee.

HB368, sponsored by Del. Brooke Lierman and amended by the House of Delegates, would ensure the Maryland Transit Administration has the minimum funding required to maintain current transit services. Without this funding, there is significant risk of shutdowns or greater unreliability on transit lines used by Marylanders to get to work, pick up kids, get groceries and medicine, or access medical care. Greater unreliability of transit pushes people back to cars and could increase climate pollution. This bill passed the House 95-36, but did not get a vote in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. 

According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a panel of leading climate scientists, the world needs to cut global emissions in half by 2030 in order to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Scientists, including those at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, have identified that threshold as the tipping point when irreversible feedback loops could make the climate crisis jump exponentially in severity.  This year is one of just a handful remaining to enact meaningful climate policy that reduces emissions before 2030.

For many, the coronavirus crisis has presented a warning for what we might see without serious climate action. Scientists, economists, and reporters have observed our response to the coronavirus to learn how it can improve the way we address climate change. A New York Times climate reporter wrote a story, “Climate Change Has Lessons for Fighting the Coronavirus.” Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at the New York University, called COVID-19, “climate change on warp speed.” 

“Just as with coronavirus, our changing climate is a science-based threat that calls for proactive changes to the way we live our lives,” said Hershkowitz. “But unlike the virus, the changes we need to put in place can stimulate the economy instead of shutting it down. Air pollution, extreme heat, and flooding kill and endanger thousands of Marylanders every year. If we can put the full force of Maryland’s government behind saving lives now — as we absolutely should — then we can do it to prevent climate deaths, too.”

CONTACT:
Denise Robbins, Communications Director, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org, 240-630-1889
Steven Hershkowitz, Maryland Director, steven@chesapeakeclimate.org, 301-941-7886

 Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the oldest and largest grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 17 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

For more information, visit www.ccanactionfund.org