Rallying Public Support to Make Maryland a Climate Leader
VICTORY: THE CLIMATE SOLUTIONS NOW ACT PASSED!
After years of hard work by CCAN and our partners, the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 passed in Maryland!
This bill sets one of the most ambitious climate pollution reduction goals in the country, of 60% statewide reductions by 2031 and net-zero emissions by 2045 — which is in line with what the top scientists are calling for as necessary to avoid the climate crisis. By establishing the Building Energy Performance standards, Maryland now becomes one of only a handful of states addressing the emissions that come from buildings. With the passage of this bill, Maryland leads the way on climate equity and environmental justice by prioritizing overburdened and underserved communities in mitigation efforts. It also invests in climate-focused jobs within the Maryland Chesapeake Conservation Corps.
This bill went through the wringer and our advocates were its lifeline. Though we didn’t get everything we wanted, this bill lays the groundwork for the climate action we will need throughout the next few years. Bill sponsors and climate champions Senator Paul Pinsky, Delegate Kumar Barve, Delegate Dana Stein, Delegate Fraser-Hidalgo, and Delegate Regina Boyce deserve a huge thanks for all their hard work on this bill. And of course, the thousands of activists and Maryland residents who showed up, lobbied their legislators, turned out at dozens of rallies all helped push this bill over the finish line. Keep reading to learn more about the bill, then donate to help us achieve future climate victories!
Maryland just passed the Climate Solutions 2022 legislative agenda in the form of the “Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022” (Senate Bill 528). This bill will aggressively decarbonize the top-emitting sectors. This includes setting emissions reduction goals and outlining specific actions to meet those commitments.
Here’s what the Climate Solutions 2022 agenda will do:
Strengthen Emissions Reduction Requirements
Our state’s previous climate plan to reduce emissions — proposed by the Hogan Administration in 2019 and legally mandated under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GGRA) of 2016 — was outdated, flawed, and not strong enough to get us the results that scientists tell us we need. The world’s top scientists at the United Nations found that we need to keep global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average to avoid catastrophe. If we do NOT set more aggressive carbon-reduction goals, the planet would warm well past this threshold, and Maryland could see significant changes in precipitation, sea-level rise, and habitability.
To secure a safe climate for Marylanders of all generations, we must drastically improve our climate action plan and put in place policies that will begin reducing emissions immediately. The Climate Solutions 2022 legislative agenda does exactly that! SB 528 will set a target of reducing emissions by 60% from 2006 levels by 2031 in order to reach net neutrality by 2045, and outline a plan to achieve that goal. They will also update our greenhouse gas accounting practices to ensure that we’re accurately measuring methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas.
Transportation is the largest source of climate pollution in Maryland. SB 528 will enable us to lead by example and transition the state vehicle fleet and all public school buses to zero-emission vehicles (ZEV). And by targeting school bus electrification to benefit communities that have been most impacted by transportation pollution and underinvestment due to redlining and racial segregation, we can center our vehicle electrification policy in environmental and racial justice. CSN begins that process by:
- Requiring a portion of the passenger cars purchased for the state fleet be ZEV starting in the fiscal year 2023 and reaching 100% by 2031.
- Requiring a portion of all light-duty vehicles purchased for the state fleet be ZEV starting in the fiscal year 2028 and reaching 100% by 2036.
- Requiring all new contracts for the purchase or use of a school bus to be zero-emission vehicles, starting in 2025.
The climate crisis is also a social justice crisis: the communities least responsible for causing it are expected to face the brunt of the impacts.
The Climate Solutions Now Act aims to right this wrong by investing in climate justice by expanding the Chesapeake Conservation Corp to include positions that focus on achieving GHG reduction targets. These jobs could include clean energy projects, climate mitigation projects, or holistic retrofits of low-income households. Additionally, MDE will be required to establish strategies addressing environmental justice and advancing climate equity — including providing funds to disproportionately affected communities — by December 21, 2023.
The Act will also establish a Climate Catalytic Capital Fund to promote private capital investment and help weatherize low- and moderate-income households, among other things. Finally, it creates a Just Transition Employment and Retraining Working Group in coordination with local unions to protect workers from economic insecurity and ensure Maryland workers can learn the skills needed to thrive in the new energy economy.
Reduce Emissions from Buildings
Buildings emit 40% of Maryland’s greenhouse gasses (13% of which are direct emissions) and account for 90% of Maryland’s electricity use.
In the 2021 Annual Report and Building Energy Transition Plan, the Maryland Commission on Climate Change recommends that all new construction in the state meet water and space heating demands with all-electric appliances no later than 2024. The Commission found that all-electric new homes have lower construction and energy costs than mixed-fuel homes and therefore this recommendation would help improve housing affordability and local air quality while reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Maryland.
Unfortunately, oil and gas lobbyists removed the provision that would mandate all-new electric construction. But the bill will direct MDE to create a Building Energy Performance Standard for existing buildings larger than 35,000 square feet to reduce the direct emissions from buildings by 20% by 2030 and to reach net-zero emissions by 2040. It also establishes a Building Energy Transition Implementation Task Force to study and make recommendations regarding the reduction of GHG emissions from buildings and retrofits of existing buildings.
States like New York, Washington, and Massachusetts are pursuing building electrification and Maryland cannot fall behind in this important sector!
Invest in our Grid
We know that to reach our climate goals we will need a grid that can support our more complex energy needs. By adopting provisions from HB88/SB525, Climate Solutions Now supports the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) distribution system planning process by establishing goals, harnessing federal funding, and requiring the PSC to adopt regulations for distribution system planning.
- CCAN Press Release: MD Commission on Climate Change Recommends All-Electric New Construction by 2024
- Factsheet: All-Electric New Construction: A Win for the Climate and Your Wallet.
- Op-ed: “Maryland, once a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, falls dangerously behind.” Donald Boesch, Baltimore Sun, 11/3/2021
- Op-ed: Del. Robbyn Lewis: “Maryland Needs to Act Boldly on Climate Change.” Maryland Matters, 11/12/2021
- “Opinion: Baltimore, Environmental Justice and Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda.” Larry Stafford, Maryland Matters, 10/12/2021