Supporters of battling climate change rally in Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Supporters of legislation to address climate change rallied in Maryland on Tuesday to speed up the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 40% of 2006 levels to 60% by 2030.
The ambitious “Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022” includes provisions to expand the state’s electric vehicle fleet, require large buildings to reduce emissions and help communities disproportionately affected by climate change.
“This legislation makes sure that we’re putting ourselves on track, on the path, to strong, sustainable solutions to deal with our climate, but also to help with our public health and our economy,” said Josh Tulkin, the executive director of the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club, at a rally with lawmakers next to the Capitol.
The rally came before a bill hearing in Annapolis, on the same day that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a report warning that America’s coastline will see sea levels rise in the next 30 years by as much as they did in the entire 20th century, with major Eastern cities hit regularly with costly floods, even on sunny days.
The measure, which stalled last year in the Maryland General Assembly, also seeks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, meaning at least as much carbon is being removed from the atmosphere as what’s being emitted.
Sen. Paul Pinsky, who chairs the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and is sponsoring the bill, described the measure as “a work in progress.” The chairman said he was open to changes, with evidence if something can’t work.
Still, he said, it’s not enough to “go after low-hanging fruit.”
“If that’s all we do, the flooding will intensify,” Pinsky, a Democrat, said at a bill hearing. “The storms will become more severe. More cropland will be lost to salt water intrusion. There will be more fires and drought, and more people will lose their lives.”
The measure also aims to shift away from coal and oil and move to electricity. This would allow growing solar, wind and geothermal energy options to run along electric lines in place of pipes, Pinsky said. Newly constructed buildings would use electricity for heating and hot water, rather than oil and natural gas.
The measure also says that residential and commercial buildings more than 25,000 square feet (2,323 square meters) would be required to reduce emissions to net zero in 18 years, with a phased-in reduction. The chairman said a task force would be formed to recommend plans to assist with retrofitting buildings with tax credits or subsidies.
Opponents, however, said the cost of doing that would be enormous, with financial assistance still undefined.
Michael Powell, who represented business interests on the Maryland Climate Change Commission, said the bill before lawmakers makes the “transition unworkable,” particularly because of the retrofitting that would be needed in buildings.
“We’re talking about billions of dollars, not millions, billions of dollars on the retrofitting, so this will be difficult,” Powell told lawmakers at the bill hearing.
A comprehensive measure stalled in last year’s session amid disagreements between the House and Senate, though some elements were rescued, including a provision to plant 5 million trees in the state by 2030. But lawmakers in both chambers started working in August to bridge their differences over the more ambitious proposal. The bill is a priority this year among legislative leadership.
“We want to have a big victory this year, and we’re going to get a big victory,” said Del. Kumar Barve, a Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the House Environment and Transportation Committee.
The Senate is working off of one sweeping measure, while the House is working from four different bills. Barve said differences are relatively minor, and lawmakers won’t be waiting until the last day of the session, on April 11, as they did last year when time ran out on the bill.
This version corrects that measure aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 40% to 60% by 2030.