Smoke-like greenhouse gas emissions from a chimney in northern China are not only a global environmental problem but also a business problem, as was discussed at the ClimateWork Maine Summit on Maine’s Economy and Climate Change on Friday. The event was aimed at examining climate change as an economic issue and how it impacts the business world and how to make the most of the change. It was the first major event hosted by ClimateWork Maine, a new non-profit coalition focused on helping Maine businesses transition to renewable energy sources and taking steps to reduce climate change. Over 400 people turned out to Augusta to hear 60 speakers and nearly 20 presentations and panels covering a wide range of subjects.
Tiffany Adams, executive vice-president of the Climate Leadership Council and keynote speaker, said that presenting climate change as an economic issue is the most effective way to address it on both sides of politics. Climate change not only poses a threat to the planet, but it is also a threat to the economy, jobs, and people’s livelihoods. Speakers discussed the shift to more renewable resources such as solar, wind, and wood, and what kind of products and services companies offer to maintain jobs and keep their businesses going. Maine is well-positioned to establish itself as a leader in timber production as the most densely forested state in the United States.
The summit comes more than three years after Governor Janet Mills issued an executive order committing Maine to being carbon neutral by 2045. Congress has also committed to reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45% from 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Legislators formed a 35-member Maine Climate Council to consider how to achieve these goals and to address issues such as ocean acidification, sea warming, Gulf salinity, and dissolved oxygen levels.
A carbon-neutral, greenhouse gas-free future will require significant changes to the state’s workforce. Maine has thousands of jobs that rely on fossil fuels, from the auto industry to oil companies. Still, the state aims to support 30,000 clean energy jobs by 2030. Maine’s affiliated general contractors plans to launch a new Maine Construction Academy shortly in another effort to create more construction jobs. The pre-apprenticeship program will introduce students to the different crafts within the industry, including courses taught by industry leaders and courses focused on clean energy careers.