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Commentary

Opinion: Authors of Abell Foundation Climate Report Respond to Secretary Grumbles

Flooding in Annapolis earlier this fall. Some shops along Dock Street were spared while others had several inches of water inundation during high tide. WTOP photo by Dave Dildine.

By Tom Peterson and Rex Hazelton

The writers are, respectively, president and CEO at Center for Climate Strategies and an energy policy analyst at the Center for Climate Strategies.

Thank you for covering the new Abell Foundation Report “Turning Up the Heat on Cooling Down the Planet: Comparing the Climate Leadership Actions of Maryland and Massachusetts” in your Dec. 6 Maryland Matters article “Pinsky, Barve Vow to Move Climate Change Bill Quickly in 2022.”

As authors of the Abell report, we wanted to respond to some comments about the report in your article that are attributed to Ben Grumbles of the Maryland Department of Environment.

Click here to read more from our Climate Calling series.

The first suggests that the study overlooked some Hogan administration initiatives, including a 2030 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan issued earlier this year to enable the state to reach a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The Abell Report acknowledges this plan but explains that it is an aspirational target rather than a requirement, and its attainment depends on key policy actions that remain unclear or lack associated implementation mechanisms.

As a result, achievement of the 2030 plan is unlikely at this stage, and it does not provide long-term (mid-century) climate stabilization strategies. In contrast, Massachusetts has done a better job specifying programs and mechanisms needed to reach targets for 2030 and has enacted long term requirements, including emissions targets for economic sectors. This is an important area for improvement in Maryland.

The second is the suggestion that the Abell report overlooked 2019 Maryland Climate Change Commission task force recommendations on renewable energy development and siting. This activity was recognized in the report, but it also noted also that recommendations from a technical work group do not constitute adoption of formal state actions — they still have a long way to go.

For instance, despite work group recommendations, state progress on renewable energy actions, particularly utility scale solar, have not been translated into government action. In this area, Massachusetts has also done a better job of migrating climate change work group recommendations into actual state policy and programs. Maryland can do better.

Finally, we want to note that the study does recognize Maryland’s agreement with Virginia and North Carolina to promote the development of offshore wind energy, as well as the state’s “early leadership” on banning fracking and hydrofluorocarbons and numerous other actions (the full review of these and other actions can be found in the 58-page appendix tothe report). As a whole, Maryland was rated highly for these areas, and they were not overlooked.

We want to thank the Abell Foundation for its consideration in providing a draft version of the report to the Maryland Department of the Environment for review and comment. While MDE did not respond to this invitation, we welcome the opportunity to follow up with it and other Maryland agencies and climate change commission work groups to discuss how the state can get back on track for climate change leadership at this critical juncture.

Time is of the essence.