In 2020 the state had drought conditions. Northern Maine declared an emergency and had to receive FEMA’s help

June 1, 2021

By Ramona du Houx

Funding from Maine Climate Council will support climate resilience planning in Aroostook, Cumberland, and Sagadahoc counties, develop model processes for Maine

 Eight Maine communities have been selected to participate in pilot projects for local climate resilience planning, to help them prepare for effects of climate change and develop climate planning models for towns and cities in Maine. The selected pilot projects are partnerships among the following communities and organizations:

  • Windham and Bridgton, with the Greater Portland Council of Governments.
  • Harpswell, Phippsburg and West Bath, with the New England Environmental Finance Center and Casco Bay Estuary Partnership at the University of Southern Maine.
  • Caribou, Washburn, and Fort Fairfield, with the Northern Maine Development Commission and The Nature Conservancy in Maine.

“With increasing storm events, droughts, and rising sea levels, Maine’s climate action plan calls for empowering communities to help them become more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” said Hannah Pingree, Director, Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, and co-chair, Maine Climate Council. “The partnerships behind this pilot project will help inform the state as it seeks to increase both funding and technical assistance to support crucial resilience planning for Maine’s cities and towns.”

Lobsters will migrate north with warming temperatures, and are victims of ocean acidification, which weakens their shells. More coastal flooding is predicted as sea levels and extreme weather increases.

The pilot projects, which are supported by $125,000 donated to the Maine Climate Council, were selected in a competitive process by the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future and the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Maine’s four-year climate action plan, Maine Won’t Waitrecommended enhancing state support for communities to build climate resilience, such as by adopting official sea-level rise projections, incorporating climate change in land-use planning, and strengthening public-health monitoring, education, and prevention.

“Northern Maine Development Commission is excited to partner with The Nature Conservancy to provide resiliency planning for three communities along the Aroostook River watershed,” said Jay Kamm, Senior Planner, Northern Maine Development Commission. “We hope this can serve as a catalyst for assisting more communities in Aroostook and Washington counties from the planning stage, to obtaining financing to address potential climate change issues in the future.”

In many cases, communities are assisted by state programs, academic institutions, nonprofits, and the private sector for climate planning, but technical and financial support for municipal efforts is not uniform and progress has been uneven. 

“Maine’s inland communities are being impacted now by climate change but have not been the focus of climate planning in recent years, given the immediate impacts of sea level rise on coastal communities. Inland communities need support to plan for climate change impacts they are already seeing, like increased tick activity, flooding of inland waterways and degraded water quality,” said Linda LaCroix, Community Development Director, Town of Bridgton, Gretchen Anderson, Sustainability Coordinator, Town of Windham, and Sara Mills-Knapp, Sustainability Program Director, Greater Portland Council of Governments. “GPCOG, Bridgton and Windham are looking forward to participating in the Resilience Pilot to further climate planning in our towns and appreciate the leadership the state is taking on supporting municipal climate action.”

By working to create climate resilience planning processes that are replicable across the state, these projects will help advance local efforts against climate change.

“The neighboring coastal communities of our pilot project share distinct social and geographic vulnerabilities and have a history of collaboration,” said Martha Sheils, Director, New England Environmental Finance Center, and Victoria Boundy, Community Engagement Coordinator, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership. “New England EFC and CBEP are excited to support these towns to make regionally informed, science-based policy and planning decisions and to set them up for sustainable financing.”

The community resilience grants another milestone in the implementation of Maine Won’t Wait, the state’s four-year plan for climate action that was launched on Dec. 1, 2020.  Since the plan was introduced, the state has acted on multiple objectives, including:

  • Convening an Equity Subcommittee to ensure shared benefits from climate action and policy across diverse populations in Maine.
  • Launching a Forest Carbon Task Force to develop incentives for private forest and woodlot owners to use their lands to sequester carbon emissions.
  • Introducing legislation to phase-down the use of hydrofluorocarbons in Maine, a climate “super pollutant” used in refrigeration
  • Supporting legislation to increase efficiency through appliance standards, start clean energy finance programs for businesses, and advance the clean energy economy through new energy projects and workforce development.
  • Developing efforts to help communities manage sea level rise impacts and supporting the state adoption of an official sea-level rise projection.
  • Releasing the first Lead-By-Example targets for state agencies
  • Launched a Clean Transportation roadmap planning process to help achieve Maine’s goals of having 219,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030.
  • Launched a “Clean Energy Innovation Challenge” with the Maine Technology Institute to grow companies and entrepreneurs in Maine with new clean energy technologies or services.

In 2019, Governor Mills, with bipartisan support of the Maine Legislature, enacted some the nation’s boldest greenhouse gas emissions reductions and renewable energy generation targets, to protect Maine from the effects of climate change and grow a vibrant clean energy economy.

Since then, she has committed Maine to further, urgent climate action, including achieving carbon neutrality by 2045, and more than doubling the state’s clean energy workforce to 30,000 by 2030 through increased support of workforce development and training, as well as emerging energy technology.

Moody’s Investors Service cited Governor Mills’ climate actions in its reaffirmation of Maine’s strong credit rating, noting that the creation of the Maine Climate Council and other actions will help mitigate the risks climate changes presents to Maine.

Programs and policies under the Biden administration from the American Rescue Plan will fund critical climate related issues. The American Jobs Plan, once passed, will add more funds to build out climate change resilient infrastructure.

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