The amazing 16-year old Greta Thunberg inspired tens of thousands of us participating in the recent UN Climate Week in New York City. While the effects of climate change are growing more severe, and the need for action is more urgent than ever before, there is some good and promising news in Maryland: the Hogan administration, of which I’m a member, is pushing for progress, embracing bold and achievable solutions based on science and common sense.

In response to the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which took effect last week, Gov. Larry Hogan issued one of the nation’s most aggressive climate goals: 100% clean electricity by 2040.

Advertisement

It will be achieved through bipartisan legislation establishing a Clean and Renewable Energy Standard, which will build upon the progress we’ve already made in cleaning up our electricity grid under the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which continues to grow in membership and results under Maryland’s leadership.

As part of this historic commitment, Governor Hogan issued an executive order to help ensure our state’s ambitious new climate goals lead to real progress on the ground and steer clear of unacceptable impacts to farms, forests and watersheds. The order established a task force of experts and agency leaders to develop smarter strategies on renewable energy development and siting, with a strong policy of avoiding unnecessary trade-offs and embracing close coordination with local planners and property owners.

On an even broader scale, in the coming weeks, the Maryland Department of the Environment will release the state’s comprehensive, economy-wide draft plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030.

Our plan will cut carbon pollution even more than required by the General Assembly, thanks to the comprehensive, collaborative and innovative technologies and strategies involving clean electricity, enhanced land conservation and management, and more.

We will promote decarbonization through the widespread use of vehicles that run off of increasingly clean energy. We’ll deploy those vehicles through the Maryland Clean Cars program in conjunction with the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a collaborative effort of mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states looking to apply the proven “carbon cap-and-invest” model to transportation emissions.

We’ll complement those zero-emission vehicles with expanded investment in public transit, freight rail infrastructure and the MARC train, and establish another nation-leading goal of upgrading half of the state’s transit buses to battery electric or hydrogen models by 2030. Other programs emphasize healthy soils, improved detection and reduction of methane leaks, and the prohibition of certain hydrofluorocarbons.

Our plan will also make buildings cleaner and more efficient by extending efficiency investments under the EmPOWER Maryland program and by implementing Governor Hogan’s recent executive order directing our state buildings to reduce energy use by another 10%.

Our comprehensive approach will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tons more than our 2030 goal, which means real progress in the effort to blunt the impact of climate change. It will also give us enormous additional benefits, including improved air and water quality and public health, less nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and a better economy — billions of dollars in increased economic output within the state and more than 11,000 additional jobs through 2030, according to our analysis. Those benefits will be broadly shared by Marylanders and communities throughout the state.

We have been discussing details about the plan with the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, a bipartisan group of experts and leaders throughout the state who help to coordinate our climate change efforts.

In the coming weeks, we’ll release the full draft plan with robust opportunities for public comment and participation in shaping the final plan. This will include meetings across the state to seek broad and diverse views on how best to achieve ambitious and balanced goals. We look forward to input from Maryland’s citizens, businesses and stakeholders.

The heat is on for bold and collaborative action and the Hogan administration is committed to confronting the climate crisis. We are confident that Maryland will continue to be a shining example of bipartisan energy and environmental progress at a time when it’s needed most.

Ben Grumbles (ben.grumbles@maryland.gov) is Maryland Environment Secretary and Chair of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement