United States

Maine Gov. Janet Mills Tells UN State Will Go Carbon Neutral by 2045

Mills' state established the Maine Climate Council to work on emission reductions and clean energy transition

Maine Gov. Janet Mills told the United Nations General Assembly on Monday that her state will combat climate change by going carbon neutral by 2045.

Mills, a Democrat, was invited to talk about Maine's efforts to combat climate change at the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 in New York City. It was the first time a Maine governor addressed the UN.

The governor joined world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the summit.

Mills, who was elected in 2018 after running with a pledge to tackle climate issues, also released an executive order Monday about the state's carbon neutrality goal.

"And if our small state can do it, you can. Because we've got to unite to preserve our precious common ground, for our common planet, in uncommon ways for this imperative common purpose," Mills told the assembly.

Mills' remarks were brief and only a few minutes long. She received the invitation to speak from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

As for how significant Mills' remarks are, University of Southern Maine political science professor, Dr. Rebecca Davis Gibbons, characterized the event as a unique moment.

"It's quite rare for any governor to speak at the UN," she said. "Guterres is inviting people who are taking concrete action. He's inviting mayors, people actually doing something... the Trump administration has walked away from the Paris climate agreement."

The climate action summit aims to bring together governments and the private sector to focus on renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and adaptation to warming temperatures.

In Maine, rising temperatures are a major concern for the state because of its dependency on industries like fisheries and forestry. The Gulf of Maine, which is the center of the U.S. lobster fishery, is warming faster than most of the world's oceans, and that is bringing change to marine life that has been disruptive for fishermen.

Mills' executive order to bring the state to carbon neutrality referenced Maine's recent mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The state also established the Maine Climate Council to work on emission reductions and clean energy transition.

The executive order states that the climate council will provide recommendations to meet the carbon neutrality goal no later than Dec. 1, 2020.

The climate summit took place on a day when the temperature topped out at 89 degrees in Portland, which is Maine's largest city. That temperature broke a record high mark for the day that had stood for 78 years.

Less clear, are how the remarks will actually impact a global tangible solution to fight climate change during a time of diplomatic and domestic disagreement both within and beyond the U.S.

"We are in a very uncertain geopolitical situation right now," Gibbons said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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