The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) sees today’s Maryland state Senate vote approving the Climate Solutions Now Act as a first step toward significantly reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions.
The amended bill removed provisions that would have barred large new buildings from using gas for space and water heating. Buildings are the third-largest source of emissions behind transportation uses and power plants that use fossil fuels to generate electricity, according to Maryland’s emission reduction plan.
CBF had supported efforts to reduce this source of emissions in the bill, but CBF and other environmental advocates faced strong opposition from the utility and building industries that economically benefit from burning fossil fuels.
The state’s Commission on Climate Change recommended adopting an “all-electric construction code.” The state’s emission reduction plan encourages state leaders to find ways for buildings to switch from fossil fuel burning furnaces and boilers to efficient electric heat pumps that are “powered by increasing clean and renewable Maryland electricity” to decarbonize the sector and reduce its emissions.
Despite the amended portions, the bill offers a strong starting point toward decarbonizing the Maryland economy and seriously reducing the emissions that fuel climate change. The Senate-approved bill has many critical provisions, including the following:
- It would set statewide goals to reduce emissions by 60 percent of 2006 levels by 2030 and net-zero by 2045;
- Require the state to electrify state vehicle and bus fleets;
- Set new standards for school buildings to meet net-zero energy requirements;
- Establish a new type of green bank, the Climate Catalytic Capital Fund, to invest in projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in low and moderate-income communities;
- Develop state plans to address environmental justice issues in communities that have clusters of pollution-producing facilities near them;
- And create a Maryland Climate Justice Corps Program to help train young workers in climate-related occupations and implement projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In the Chesapeake Bay, climate change fueled by greenhouse gas emissions has led to stronger storms and more runoff pollution reaching waterways. Warming temperatures have led to changes in wildlife distribution. Saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels is causing loss of farmland. Portions of Maryland such as Ellicott City, Annapolis, and Baltimore are experiencing frequent flooding that threatens their local economies and residents’ quality of life.
CBF Maryland Executive Director Josh Kurtz issued the following statement:
“This bill will set Maryland up for climate success. While the amended version doesn’t include the important statewide building electrification measures that the state’s analysis has shown is needed, it will make Maryland a leader in electrifying vehicles and state buildings. The legislation also provides a path for environmental justice in communities that have historically been overburdened by pollution. We urge the House of Delegates to approve it and send it to the Governor.”