As Gov. Larry Hogan knows, climate change is real, and there is a high cost of inaction. According to the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, the state has already "documented a sea level rise of more than one foot in the last century, increasing water temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay, more rain and flooding in the winter and spring and more arid summers. Maryland's people and their property, natural environment and public investments are extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts."
After President Donald Trump announced last week that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, making us one of only three countries in the world not committed to participating, Governor Hogan conveyed through a spokesperson that this was not an action he would have taken and that he remains committed to preserving the state's natural resources for future generations. It is appropriate that Governor Hogan stated his position on this serious issue, but he did not go far enough. In the absence of a federal commitment to address climate change, we need states and local governments to step up as clear leaders.
Governor Hogan must personally take a firm, public stand on Maryland's commitment to addressing climate change. Already, Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont — both, like Governor Hogan, Republicans in largely Democratic states — announced that they will join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of a dozen states and Puerto Rico -- including Virginia, California and New York -- committed to fulfilling the tenets of the Paris climate agreement. In addition to this inspiring state level commitment, more than 240 U.S. mayors, including D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, representing more than 56 million Americans from across the country, have committed to upholding the goals enshrined in the Paris agreement. They plan to "intensify efforts to meet each of our cities' current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy," according to a statement.
Maryland is already making significant strides toward climate change mitigation. In 2016, the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act was renewed, directing the state to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases 25 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2030. This is an even more ambitious target than the U.S. commitment under the Paris agreement, which was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent below the 2005 level in 2025, with "best efforts" made to reduce emissions by 28 percent. The Clean Energy Jobs Act was also passed in Maryland last year, although without Governor Hogan's support, ensuring that Maryland gets 25 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2020 and making us one of 29 states to have active renewable energy portfolio standards. Governor Hogan's support of the hydraulic fracturing ban this year was greatly appreciated and indicates that he is willing to prioritize Maryland's environmental health and safety. But now is not the time for inconsistent support for the environment.
The overwhelming majority of Americans, including those who voted for President Trump, support climate action, energy efficiency and renewable energy. We applaud the hundreds of U.S. states, cities and companies that have signaled their determination to protect our communities from the impacts of climate change and to reap the economic benefits of the clean energy revolution. We believe it is critically important that Maryland affirm its commitment to the mission of the Paris accord in solidarity with the world. We want to see our state be a clear and committed leader in clean energy, a leader in reducing heat-trapping emissions and a leader in creating jobs in a low-carbon economy. We need to show the world that while President Trump abandoned the international climate agreement, individuals, cities and states are not standing idly by. We are asking Governor Hogan to join the growing chorus of bi-partisan climate leaders; this is no time for equivocation or silence.
Chiara D'Amore is a state coordinator of Together We Will Maryland (TWWMarylandState@gmail.com), a progressive solidarity network working across Maryland to foster safe and inclusive communities, protect the environment, secure equal rights for all people, and create a cohesive network to connect and amplify progressive issues and voices.