Maryland has proposed an ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, from promoting cleaner ways to produce electricity to putting more electric vehicles on the road to making buildings more efficient.
The Climate Pollution Reduction Plan, released Thursday, offers a road map for Gov. Wes Moore and other leaders on how to reach the state’s climate change goals.
The state previously set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2031, compared to 2006 levels. The primary measurement being tracked is million metric tons of carbon dioxide, but reductions are required for all greenhouse gasses.
The state is about halfway to the 2031 goal, and programs now in place will get the state most of the way to the 60% reduction goal. But there’s a gap that needs to be met through additional programs and policies.
Further, the state hopes to reach net zero emissions by 2045.
Maryland has scores of efforts underway to combat greenhouse gas emissions, from promoting renewable energy production to making buildings more efficient.
The report outlines additional and expanded actions, including:
- Helping residents switch to electric heat pumps and electric water heaters by covering 100% of the cost for low- and moderate-income households and half the cost for middle-income households
- Requiring newly installed heating systems, such as electric heat pumps and electric water heaters, to be zero emission
- Offering upfront rebates on electric car purchases to make the vehicles more affordable, with extra incentives for “super users” who drive a lot and have above-average fuel consumption
- Building more electric vehicle charging stations
- Planting more trees and better managing forests and wetlands that remove carbon from the atmosphere
- Requiring that 100% of electricity used in Maryland come from renewable sources such as wind power and solar power by 2035
- Reducing the amount of miles driven on Maryland roads by 20%
Some of the policies could be put into place by state agencies, while others would require action by the General Assembly.
Along the way, the report states, the new programs and policies will not only cut emissions but should also offer health and economic benefits to Marylanders, who will breathe cleaner air, spend less on energy and have opportunities for green industry jobs.
“The policies will nearly put an end to the fossil fuel era and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy,” the report states. “In turn, the state will experience improved air quality, health, wealth, and the prospect of keeping our planet habitable for future generations.”
Climate change is a global problem, and Maryland faces its own consequences if it is left unaddressed. Already, sea-level rise and changing climate patterns are leading to flooding in low-lying communities and extreme heat in urban areas.
“The climate crisis is not a far off threat. It’s already here,” Maryland’s environment secretary, Serena McIlwain, wrote in an introduction to the report. “Maryland’s Climate Pollution Reduction Plan will counteract the effects of climate change by decreasing the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. It will also position our state to win the decade by producing jobs, innovation, and healthier communities.”
However, the climate change-fighting policies also come with an upfront cost of about $1 billion per year — at a time when the state government is facing budgetary headwinds.
The Moore administration is drawing up the next budget, trying to eliminate a shortfall of $761 million. State officials have also proposed slashing planned road and transit projects to close a $3.3 billion budget hole in funding the state’s six-year plan, while keeping an eye on long-term, expensive public school improvements.
The state plans to rely, at least in part, on federal money from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to pay for some of the elements of the climate plan.
The report suggests funding options to consider, such as borrowing money in the form of bonds that would be paid back later, instituting various fees and tolls on actions that create emissions, and setting up an in-state cap-and-trade system for carbon emitters. (Maryland already participates in a multistate regional carbon cap-and-trade program.)
Advocacy groups that have been pushing the state to take bold action on climate generally praised the report but called for a firmer funding plan.
The Maryland Public Interest Research Foundation, or PIRG, urged the governor and lawmakers to “move quickly to implement this thorough plan.” The group suggested starting with expanding programs to make residential homes more efficient.
The Maryland League of Conservation Voters called the report “timely and comprehensive.” But the group said the state fell short in coming up with how to pay for the list of recommended policies, with costs that could reach $1 billion per year.
While the state works out a financial plan, the League of Conservation Voters suggests the state should move forward with policies that come at no direct taxpayer cost, such as reclassifying the burning of trash so it’s no longer considered a renewable source of electricity and working to reduce how many miles people drive in the state.
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network also noted that the state doesn’t fully account for how to pay for the plans.
Jamie DeMarco, the network’s Maryland director, said, “It is Governor Moore’s responsibility to lead on the question of revenue raising and not punt the hard choices to the legislature.”