Governor Martin O'Malley hosted hundreds of scientists, business leaders, environmental advocates and community activists today at a climate change summit to celebrate the release of Maryland's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan (the Plan) and discuss how Marylanders can take action to help the State reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25 percent by 2020.
"Climate change is not an ideological issue any more than gravity is: it's not about whether we move left or right, but whether we make the right choices for Marylanders. As severe weather events continue to grow in size and impact, and elongated trends of poor air quality continue, the costs of inaction would grow exponentially," said Governor O'Malley. "In Maryland, we are moving forward and taking action by creating green jobs and protecting our land, water, air and public health."
The Plan is a comprehensive, long-term framework. The majority of its programs are already in place and will be strengthened with new technologies and forward-thinking policies over the next seven years. These enhancements will result in a 55 million metric ton reduction in GHG emissions and approximately $1.6 billion in economic benefits. The Plan will support more than 37,000 jobs and positively impact public health.
"The cost of inaction is too great. We are taking actions now to safeguard our communities from climate impacts we are already seeing and expect to see more frequently in the future," said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers. "All Marylanders can take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy consumption and household waste output, walking, riding a bike or using mass transit whenever possible and driving more fuel efficient vehicles."
Key programs in the Plan include:
Maryland Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS): This establishes a market for new sources of renewable electricity generation by requiring that Maryland power providers supply 18 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, increasing to 20 percent by 2022. Increasing this standard beyond 20 percent could drive additional reductions.
EmPOWER Maryland: This program is designed to reduce both Maryland's per capita total electricity consumption and peak load demand by 15 percent by 2015. It includes many State- and utility-managed energy efficiency and conservation programs. Strengthening this existing program should allow the State to increase its per capita electricity consumption reduction target above 15 percent and enable Maryland to achieve additional reductions.
Zero Waste: Maryland is implementing an ambitious strategy that aims to ensure all products in Maryland can be reused, recycled or composted. Waste in landfills is a source of GHG emissions. By reducing the volume of that waste, we can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and by recycling we can reduce the energy needed to make products from raw materials. The final Plan includes additional GHG emission reductions attributable to increasing the State's requirement to better utilize or recycle 60 percent of Maryland's government managed solid waste by 2020. Maryland's county recycling rates already average around 45 percent.
Maryland Clean Cars Program: This program directly regulates carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles. These standards became effective for model year 2011 vehicles, significantly reducing a number of emissions from greenhouse gases.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): This program is a cooperative regional cap-and-trade initiative among nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. Revenues from the program support energy efficiency programs and augment EmPOWER and RPS. Recently, the RGGI states agreed to lower the regional emissions cap. In Maryland, regulations needed to implement the lower cap will be promulgated this summer.
A recent George Mason University report showed that 86 percent of Marylanders believe climate change is happening and three quarters of Marylanders believe that state and local governments should protect their communities from the impacts of climate change. In addition, a second report showed that 52 percent of Marylanders believe that climate change poses a significant public health threat.
"Given the extreme weather of last year including Hurricane Sandy and the recent heat wave, Marylanders are becoming more aware of the destructive impacts of climate change. In order to avoid the worst of these impacts, action must be taken now to reduce greenhouse gases in Maryland and around the world," said Chesapeake Climate Action Network Executive Director Mike Tidwell. "We are fortunate in Maryland that Governor Martin O'Malley has made a top priority of tackling the climate crisis head on. By charting a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020, Maryland is showing the rest of the country how to fight climate change while attracting a clean energy industry that will grow the state's economy."
Maryland is among the States most vulnerable to climate change with more than 3,000 miles of coastline. Rising sea levels, along with increased storm intensity, will have devastating and far-reaching environmental and economic impacts on the Chesapeake Bay and on the quality of life that Marylanders enjoy.
"Science is clear that climate change is occurring, is caused primarily by human activities and poses significant risks to Maryland as it does to the rest of the world" said University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science president Don Boesch. "Significant reductions in emissions must be made over just a few decades to avoid the worst of the consequences and Maryland has an opportunity and a responsibility to lead."
For the past six years, the people of Maryland have been taking strong actions to reduce our carbon footprint, improve air quality, invest in clean technology and create green jobs. Under the O'Malley-Brown Administration, Maryland has set some of the most ambitious goals in the nation for reducing greenhouse emissions advancing cleaner, renewable energy, protecting the health of our children and elderly, rebuilding our shorelines and creating green jobs.
Maryland advanced off-shore wind, on-shore wind, and solar energy policies. The State partnered with eight other Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states on RGGI, the nation's first cap-and-trade auction of greenhouse emissions. Maryland reduced harmful pollutants in its air by more than 80 percent, passed landmark clean cars legislation, created a sustainable communities tax credit and created incentives to help homeowners and businesses utilize clean energy.
By making these better choices the State is delivering better results: Maryland's workforce has more green jobs per capita than any state in the Mid-Atlantic region. The climate-related actions Maryland is taking are projected to create 37,000 additional jobs and pump $1.6 billion into Maryland's economy.
Learn more about Maryland's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan and what you can do to make a difference atclimatechange.maryland.gov.