In 2009, Maryland set the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent, and today, Governor Martin O’Malley announced a comprehensive plan that could actually allow the state to meet it. O’Malley, who has been governor since 2006, made the announcement at a climate change summit at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum, Maryland in front of business leaders, scientists, and environmental and renewable energy advocates.
In 2009, O’Malley signed the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009. The law requires Maryland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent from a 2006 baseline by 2020. This plan will have to be voted on in 2015, meaning state lawmakers will have to decide if the state should continue with O’Malley’s plan or have a new plan developed.
It would be wise to move forward with this plan. Without faster progress, the state will reduce its carbon emissions by only 17 percent in 2020. But O’Malley can build on previous successes on creating green jobs, protecting the environment, and reducing state emissions. The plan he laid out today is a pragmatic one that will address climate change, reduce air pollution, stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and put Maryland on the right path to reduce 25 percent of its emissions by 2020.
“We are here today because climate disruption is real and it is not an ideological issue any more than gravity is,” said O’Malley. “It is physics, pure and simple, but our response to it is complex.”
The plan encompasses more than 150 programs and initiatives to achieve a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 25 percent by 2020, or a decrease of 55 MMtCO2e (million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent). A few of the main strategies and programs that will contribute significant amounts of reductions are:
- Accelerating and increasing the renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Maryland’s current standard requires the state to consume 20 percent renewable energy by 2022, but O’Malley’s plan will change the standard to require 25 percent renewable energy consumption by 2020. The plan also removes black liquor as a Tier 1 renewable technology – a pulping product that is burned.
- Enhancing the EmPOWER program. This law is designed to reduce per capita electricity consumption and peak demand by Maryland consumers by 15 percent by 2015. Maryland is on track to exceed its 15 percent peak demand reduction goal, but the per capita energy goal is falling short. O’Malley’s plan will improve utility and non-utility programs to address the per capita goal.
- Managing forests to capture carbon. By 2020, the O’Malley administration has set a goal to achieve the afforestation and/or reforestation of over 43,000 acres.
- Continuing to develop a strategy to eliminate 85 percent of Maryland’s solid waste, or garbage, by 2030. Residential and commercial waste releases greenhouse gases during processing or when buried in a landfill. Recycling and waste diversion goals, as well as utilizing waste-to-energy facilities, are highlighted in O’Malley’s plan.
For the past six years, O’Malley has been a national leader when it comes to not only talking about climate change, but acting to fight climate change. The plan he laid out today will tremendously benefit Marylanders, and hopefully spur other states join together to protect future generations.
Matt Kasper is the Special Assistant for Energy policy at the Center for American Progress. Special thanks to Patrick Maloney for his contribution to this blog.