Reflections on the Maine Climate Council Meeting

Maine Makes Progress on Several Fronts Toward Its Climate Goals

Nick Battista, Chief Policy Officer
Posted 2023-10-12


Island Institute’s Dr. Susie Arnold presents during the September 29, 2023 Maine Climate Council meeting.

At a late September kickoff meeting for the next round of work by the Maine Climate Council, the Council and working group members heard from community stakeholders, legislators, students, and climate science experts about the how Maine has been doing in terms of implementing the 2020 Climate Action Plan, Maine Wont Wait as well as some of the latest knowledge about climate science and impacts to the State.  

As somebody who participated in the creation of the Maine Climate Council at the legislature, in the work of the climate council to develop the plan, and in the implementation of that plan, I am thrilled at the progress we have made over the last few years. Some highlights include:  

Mainers are saving money on their heating and electricity bills in record numbers and in doing so, they are creating opportunities for people to start businesses or find employment.  

  • Maine hit an ambitious target for 100,000 heat pumps installed and hit it early!  The State has a new goal of an additional 175,000 heat pumps installed by 2027.  
  • 5 times more homes have been weatherized since 2019 than were weatherized in all the years prior to that. This means thousands of Mainers are saving money on their heating bills.    
  • One in three heat pump installers in the state have been trained by Maine Community College System since 2019. 

 More Mainers are switching to electric vehicles than ever before.  

  • The number of public EV charging stations available in the State has more than doubled since 2019.  
  • The number of battery electric vehicles on the road has tripled since 2020.  
  • Maine schools were awarded 34 electric school buses from the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program, #4 in the country per-capita for awards!  

 Communities have a sense of urgency around addressing climate change.  

  • 174 communities are participating in the State’s Community Resilience Partnership. 129 of these are fully enrolled which means they have done the work to identify local priorities and backed that work up with the passage of local resolutions codifying them.  
  • The Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon team in Jay, Maine placed 16th at the International Envirothon World Championships, focusing on climate change adaptation. To learn more, watch Maine Climate Council’s video.

It’s also worth noting that Maine’s economy is doing pretty well. Real economic output is up 11% since the beginning of 2019 – and up 16% from pandemic low in mid-2020. Employment figures indicate that jobs have surpassed pre-pandemic high of 640,900 in January 2020.  

At same time, the presentations about the latest climate science as well impacts on Maine were startling – even for somebody who has been working on these issues for years. Globally, the last 9 years were the 9 hottest years in 174 years of record keeping. August 2023 was the hottest month, except for July 2023. The science has been well known and documented since at least the first IPCC report in 1990.  

  • This past fall, multiple schools in Maine closed because it was too hot for the school’s heating and cooling systems.  
  • Maine has received 4 separate flood-related disaster declarations in the past year. In comparison, there were 4 flood-related disaster declarations in Maine in the prior seven-year period, 2015-2022. 
  • June 2023 sea water levels were 9 inches above the 1912-2022 average and the pace of sea level rise over the last 30 years is nearly double that of the last 100 years.  
  • Projections for ocean temperatures off Maine’s coast indicate that in 35 years, waters off Southern Maine will likely be similar in temperature to those of Southern New England today. Under higher CO2 emissions scenarios it’s possible that waters off Downeast Maine will be that warm.    

It is clear that Maine still has work to do. When it comes to Maine’s natural resource dependent communities, and particularly fishing communities, they are at the frontlines of being impacted by climate change. I am glad my colleague Susie Arnold is on the Maine Climate Council and contributing her expertise on marine science issues as she co-Chairs the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and I am glad that my colleague Stephanie Welch is on the Community Resilience Working Group and I am on the Coastal and Marine Working Group.  

Together, we will be in a position to help to make sure these communities, people, and businesses are included in this process and Maine can continue to make progress on addressing climate change and its impacts..

Dr. Susie Arnold joined Governor Mills and others who presented during the September 29, 2023 Maine Climate Council meeting. The video below will start playing at the start of Dr. Susie Arnold’s presentation