People Power: Fixing Climate Change Happens in Annapolis

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Global greenhouse gas reducing targets will be executed at the state level bringing solutions closer to home.
Global greenhouse gas reducing targets will be executed at the state level bringing solutions closer to home.

The adage ‘think global, act local’ also refers to climate change. Us ‘little people’ have more power than assumed, as these sweeping climate change initiatives – future Paris climate treaty and the Clean Power Plan – are actually legislated and executed state-by-state. Maryland’s state senators and delegates, in concert with Governor Hogan, will legislate greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy regulations. Did you know that Baltimore legislators are eco-power-brokers, and chair both the Senate and House environmental committees. Who knew you were so powerful and could impact climate change closer to home?

As world governments and the public accept climate change scientific findings, there’s been a flurry of recent big picture initiatives: 

1. United Nation’s Conf. in Paris in Nov. – A worldwide carbon reduction treaty

2. Clean Power Plan – EPA mandate to cut power plant pollution 30 percent

3. EPA Methane Emissions Rule – cap fracking’s methane leakage

4. Improved Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Standard*- Avg. vehicle 50 mpg by ’25 

Maryland has been a climate leader. In 2009, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GGRA) mandated our state cut global warming pollution 25 percent by 2020. We’re on track to hit that mark. Up for renewal in 2016, the bipartisan Maryland Commission on Climate Change unanimously suggested a 40 percent GGRA target by 2030. Unanimous. Forty percent! Baltimore County’s Delegate Dana Stein sits on this commission. Stein is also Vice Chair of the House Environmental Committee. Baltimore’s Jay Jalisi, Stephen Lafferty, Dr. Clarence Lam, and Kathy Szeliga are committee members. Baltimore City’s Senator Joan Carter Conway chairs the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Matters Committee.

Climate change can seem massive. Almost too big to wrap our heads around. Too nebulous for any one person to impact positively. Or, is it?

A worldwide carbon treaty penned in Paris will hopefully lay out carbon reducing targets intended to keep the planet’s temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius. In Paris later this month, the U.S. will commit to a set of carbon reduction targets that will then be put into action by each state (assuming they survive the legal battles waged by oil and gas). Global warming solutions now seem closer to home. More in our control. With Baltimore legislators chairing both the House and Senate environmental committees, climate change solutions are really in our backyard. Bills either leave a committee for a full vote, or they die a sad death in committee. 

Voicing climate-friendly positions during the 2016 Maryland General Assembly which begins on January 13, 2016 and lasts for 90 days makes a difference. Email, phone calls, letters, visits, marches or social media seems doable and impactful. You may be surprised how few people are needed to bring a topic to the forefront of a legislator’s agenda. Scientists say we don’t have much time. 

Baltimore’s environmental committee members:

Joan Carter Conway – j[email protected] District 43 Chair Senate

Dana Stein – [email protected] District 11 Co-chair House

Jay Jalisi – j[email protected] District 10

Stephen Lafferty – [email protected] District 42A

Kathy Szeliga – K[email protected] District 7

* Obama updated the Corporate Avg. Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules and  this standard forces auto manufacturers to product fuel efficient cars by investing in electric and hybrid models, and better gasoline technology. This rule would not be legislated in the Md General Assembly, but greatly improves our climate.

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Laurel Peltier

Laurel writes the monthly environmental GreenLaurel column. A graduate of UVA's MBA program, she spends her time with her family and making "all things green" interesting. She co-wrote the Abell Foundation Report detailing Maryland's dysfunctional energy supplier marketplace and the negative outcomes for low-income households.
Laurel Peltier
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