Maryland is making a plan for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change. The Climate Solutions Now Act, passed in 2022, requires the state to publish a report by the end of this year detailing a policy pathway to reduce emissions by 60% by 2031 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2045: Maryland's Climate Pathway. Want to help shape the Pathway? Speak out at a listening session or submit your comments online!
Right now, the state has released a draft report - read the draft Climate Pathway report here. The report outlines the climate policies Maryland has on the books already, models how far they will get us in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and then recommends additional policies Maryland could put in place to get us the rest of the way. Those recommended additional policies will be what the state looks to for future climate action.
There's a lot of good in this plan, but if the state doesn't make a few key changes, we'll be leaving a lot of potential greenhouse gas emissions reductions on the table - and we'll be perpetuating the environmental injustices that have plagued Maryland's "renewable" energy programs for over a decade already. Speak out to demand that the final Climate Pathway report include:
- meaningful consideration of Zero Waste as a tool for emissions reduction. The draft report only estimates that "waste diversion efforts drive an additional 10% reduction from the baseline methane emissions assumed in this sector through 2050." But we know that the Zero Waste policies we are fighting for can do much more than that. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives reports that "introducing better waste management policies such as waste separation, recycling, and composting could cut total emissions from the waste sector by 84%."
- specific policies to separate and compost organic waste, reduce plastic use, promote reusable materials, and other elements of Zero Waste planning. The Pathway draft report doesn't recommend that Maryland adopt any additional policies in the Solid Waste sector to reduce emissions. But we know the potential for specific policy changes to stop emissions and even sequester carbon. Composting our food waste means that the carbon in it gets stored in the soil, instead of released into the atmosphere. The final Pathway report should recommend that by 2050, we're getting that carbon back in our soil through climate-friendly agricultural practices that reduce carbon-intensive fertilizer use, and we're not putting any organic waste in the trash.
- an end to trash incineration. The Pathway draft could recommend that Maryland close its two trash incinerators - but it doesn't. It assumes that they stay open and emissions from trash incinerators stay constant between now and 2050, even though local leaders have committed to ending trash incineration long before then. Incineration is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions: each ton of plastic burned results in the release of 1.43 tons of CO2. A new peer-reviewed report found that incinerators emit more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of electricity produced than any other power source. And on the waste management side, the report's modeling shows that incinerators are more polluting than landfills, with Maryland's two trash incinerators contributing half as much pollution as all of the state's landfills combined by 2050. Keeping trash incineration in the Pathway is a huge mistake.
- no new polluters. The Pathway draft recommends creating new facilities to burn biomass and biogas in Maryland - these do not exist in the state right now. And it anticipates them being included in the state's definition of "clean" electricity, contributing just 3% of the energy on the grid by 2050. This is a mistake that cannot remain a part of Maryland's plan. In past decades, trash incineration was promoted and subsidized as "renewable" energy, and we know what that has cost the communities that were saddled with the emissions and expenses of these facilities as a result. Maryland can't afford to make the same mistake with creating two more new polluting industries that would harm frontline communities.
How can you make a difference? The Maryland Department of the Environment is hosting listening sessions around the state and online. Sign up for all of them here! Four more are scheduled for:
- the Eastern Shore - Saturday, August 19, 2PM at Salisbury University
- Baltimore - Tuesday, September 12, 6PM at Morgan State University
- Southern Maryland - Tuesday, September 19, 6PM at the College of Southern Maryland
- Virtual - Tuesday, September 26, 6PM
Want to write your comments down? Submit your written comments here!