The Maryland Senate voted Friday to ramp up Maryland’s efforts to fight climate change over the next decade, passing a sweeping bill that calls for a massive tree planting campaign along with more electric vehicles, rooftop solar panels and energy efficient buildings.

By a vote of 36 to 11, senators approved the Climate Solutions Now Act, which would commit the state to curtailing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions 60% below 2006 levels by 2030 and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.  The state’s current goal, set by lawmakers five years ago, is for a 40% emission reduction by tend of this decade.

Planting trees and preserving forests helps to combat climate change and has water quality benefits, too. Credit: Matt Rath / Chesapeake Bay Program

“The devastating impacts of climate change become more apparent each day,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Democratic Sen. Paul Pinsky of Prince George’s County. “Today’s action places Maryland in the forefront of state action.”

The legislation orders climate action on multiple fronts, including:

  • Planting 5 million trees statewide, with 10% to go in underserved areas
  • Requiring increased electric efficiency from utilities
  • Shifting the state’s fleet of transit buses and other vehicles to zero-emission electric motors
  • Mandating carbon neutrality in most new state buildings and setting new energy conservation requirements for all buildings
  • Making newly constructed schools at least “solar-ready”

The bill also seeks to address environmental justice concerns, directing state agencies to identify communities disproportionately affected by climate change and to take steps to ensure that all receive equitable investments in the mitigation efforts.

Environmentalists, who have made the bill’s passage one of their top legislative goals this year, likewise hailed the Senate action. 

“Every Marylander will feel the effects of climate change,” said Josh Kurtz, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland executive director. “Many already have. Storms are increasing in ferocity, sea levels are rising and our coastal communities are threatened. Climate change is making the Chesapeake Bay cleanup tougher, and warmer water temperatures are depriving Bay life of oxygen. Today’s vote by the Maryland Senate shows state leaders are prepared to face this threat head-on.”

The bill won final approval by a wide margin, including some Republican votes, after the Senate defeated a string of amendments put forward by some GOP lawmakers that would have weakened or delayed provisions in the legislation.

The measure now goes to the House of Delegates, where a companion measure has been heard in committee.

This article originally published on BayJournal.com on Monday, March 15, 2021.


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