Climate action plans being developed on state, local levels in Maine

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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - Plans to combat climate change are underway at the state and local levels in Maine.

The state’s new climate council is working toward meeting emissions goals by the end of the year.

Portland and South Portland are also working together on their One Climate Action Plan.

It includes many of the same priorities the state council is hoping to address.

Portland Sustainability Coordinator Troy Moon said projected increases in sea level rise and average temperature are the greatest vulnerability for the coastal Maine cities.

Maine’s coastal water over the past century has risen at a rate that’s more than double what it was the previous 5,000 years.

The One Climate Action Plan also focuses on how climate change could affect the average Mainer.

“As Mainers, a lot of our buildings don't have air conditioning or ways to cool, so that's going to be a huge challenge,” Moon said.

The One Climate Action Plan includes many of the same building, infrastructure and housing priorities the state council is hoping to address.

The council has recommended a push for Maine-made renewable materials, clean energy heating and cooling and modernizing the electric grid.

“How we improve buildings in our state, how we help weatherize our homes, how we electrify our transportation sector,” Maine Climate Council co-chair Hannah Pingree said.

Pingree said the state council is taking recommendations from six working groups to prepare the state’s climate action plan by December.

One of its many goats is reaching the state’s new targets on carbon emissions.

“By 45% by 2030, and at least 80% by 2050,” Pingree said.

The council is using the technical help of experts like Sean Birkel with the University of Maine Climate Change Institute.

Birkel tracks trends like those seen recently in the arctic, which has seen record-warm temperatures. He is also analyzing how these global events, like loss of sea ice, might impact Maine.

“So as the arctic warms, there's a change in the strength of the winds, a change in circulation patterns,” Birkel said. “So there are implications both on shorter timescales and longer timescales.”

As for whether coronavirus quarantines have had an impact on the climate, Birkel said it is like filling a bathtub. If you turn the faucet down, the water level in the tub still goes up.