Opinion: Don’t Underestimate the Power of ‘And’ for Climate Action

Earlier this month Gov. Larry Hogan released his long-anticipated draft greenhouse gas plan. It was published 10 months later than expected and that fact alone was enough to turn some onlookers negative. Critics were “distressed” calling the plan “hollow” and paying “inattention to detail.” The news cycled in less than a day, and my only question was: how did they read so fast?

The draft plan described how Maryland will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030. It’s over 200 pages. And while the detailed technical content doesn’t make it a page-turner, it’s the most in-depth analysis of how Maryland can do its part to reduce emissions while benefiting the state’s economy and creating jobs. The draft plan is intended to kick off a public comment period to improve the plan before it’s finalized over the next few months.

The plan centers on the governor’s proposed Clean and Renewable Energy Standard, or CARES, which would use the renewable portfolio standard increase passed by the General Assembly last year as a starting point. While environmentalists and businesses are eagerly awaiting more details on the proposal, the goal of net zero emissions by 2040 is among the most ambitious in the country. It was discussed at last week’s Maryland Clean Energy Summit, hosted by the Maryland Clean Energy Center.

I was impressed by the business leaders, environmentalists and clean energy advocates in attendance who shared an optimism and willingness to collaborate. Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles summarized it nicely: To focus on the power of “and” — that is, working across sectors, industries and focusing on all-of-the-above technologies to reduce emissions on the shortest possible timeline.

Hogan’s plan also focuses on reducing emissions from transportation, including investments for public transportation and electric cars. It anticipates expanding the popular and effective EmPOWER Maryland program that helps homeowners save energy and save money.

It should be taken seriously as a first step in a multi-step process.

It’s worth questioning the motivation of critics. Will they work with others, build consensus and implement solutions to reduce greenhouse gases — or is climate change just another chapter in “my-way or the highway” divisive politics? If it’s political, the critics are wrong in this case. Gov. Hogan has been committed to state-based leadership and working with Democrats.

Frustration with a tardy draft is understandable. But it is not too late to solve the climate change problem. We can’t let anxiety and fear destroy our chances for dialogue and well-laid plans for climate action now.

Climate advocates, environmentalists, private business interests and citizens can and must come together to collaborate on a solution. It will require tolerance and a spirit of bipartisanship. Maryland could set the standard for the nation if agreement can be reached between a Democrat-led General Assembly and a Republican governor on a 100% clean energy solution for Maryland. It’s an exciting opportunity. But critics should focus on the details, and consider the power of “and.”

— CHARLES HERNICK

The writer is the director of policy and advocacy at Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum.

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