A Maryland climate-change panel called Wednesday for the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent compared to 2006 levels within the next 15 years.
The proposal would build on a 2009 Maryland law that requires the state to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.
Maryland’s Commission on Climate Change called for the new target in a report to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the General Assembly, saying efforts to reach the goal would create jobs and help the economy while combating climate change. The 26-member panel approved the proposal unanimously.
“The state of Maryland can better protect the state’s economy, the local environment and public health, while simultaneously doing its part to limit the negative consequences of global warming,” the report said. “Climate change is real, harmful and predominantly human-caused, and it is placing the health and well-being of many Marylanders at risk.”
The Maryland Department of the Environment said in a recent report that the state is on track to meet the 2009 emissions-reduction goal, in part through increased reliance on natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal, and in part through efforts to reduce driving.
The agency also estimated that the statute would create a net economic benefit of up to $3.5 billion and support between 26,000 and 33,000 new jobs, largely through growth in the renewable-energy sector and by protecting industries that could be negatively impacted by climate change, such as agriculture and tourism.
Joe Euhlein, director of the Labor Network for Sustainability, said the changing climate and extreme storms make the Port of Baltimore vulnerable to increased flooding. “With a decrease of 1 percent in shipping at the Port of Baltimore between now and 2018, we will lose more than 3,600 jobs — jobs Maryland families cannot afford to lose,” he said.
State Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), a sponsor of the 2009 legislation and member of the climate-change panel, said the state must strive for more progress on greenhouse-gas emissions. “Climate change is happening and is already impacting Marylanders statewide whether from rising sea level or more extreme storms,” he said.
Wednesday’s recommendations came less than a week after world leaders reached an historic agreement in Paris that calls for drastic global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The accord, which requires fundamental changes in the way countries produce and consume energy, will only work if policy makers in individual nations and states play along.
In Maryland last week, Democratic lawmakers promised to introduce legislation next year that would require the state to generate 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020, speeding up existing standards that call for 20 percent by 2022.
The lead sponsors of the measure will be Sen. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery) and Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery). But other prominent Democrats have thrown their support behind the measure, including Senate Majority Leader Catherine Pugh (Baltimore), Del. Dereck E. Davis (Prince George’s), and Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery).
Pugh and Davis said meeting the 25-percent target would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 2.7 million metric tons per year, the equivalent of taking 563,000 passenger vehicles off the road annually.
Maryland’s climate-change commission advises the governor and General Assembly each year on the state’s efforts to curb climate change. The panel, consisting of Cabinet secretaries, legislators and representatives from labor groups, businesses and environmental organizations, gathered input for its latest report from more than 100 stakeholders and subject-matter experts.
“All agree the state should be proactive and balanced in responding to the challenges and opportunities ahead,” said state Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles, who chairs the panel.