Thomas H. Allen is a former U.S. Congressman from Maine. During his 12 years in the House (1997-2009), he served on the Energy and Commerce Committee and wrote important health care and ocean acidification legislation. He helped negotiate the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2006. He also co-founded the House Oceans Caucus to raise congressional awareness about the need for a coordinated global oceans policy. He is currently the co-chair of the Ocean Conservancy Board of Directors.
Last month the Maine State legislature and Governor Mills enacted a sweeping bipartisan climate change bill, “An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council,” which targets a 45% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Maine by 2030, when compared to 1990 levels. This will ratchet up to an 80% reduction by 2050. I am pleased this legislation also deals with coastal and ocean climate impacts, ensuring that coastal communities are not left out.
The people who live near Maine’s coast have been my neighbors for years. In April I testified on behalf of Ocean Conservancy before the joint Marine Resources Committee to support a bill sponsored by Representative Lydia Blume that would have created an advisory council on the impact of climate change on marine species. The key provisions of that bill were included in the broader bill just enacted.
The new law calls for a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources to enable Maine to reach its greenhouse gas emissions goals. By 2030, Maine should receive 80% of the energy it uses from renewable sources. By 2050, all of Maine’s energy should come from renewables.
Reaching this milestone has been gratifying because of how this ocean to climate story has unfolded in my state. In 2014, a legislatively enacted advisory council examined the impacts of ocean and coastal acidification on Maine’s marine industries and coastal communities. The council made multiple recommendations on how our state could protect its marine resources and coastal communities dependent on healthy fishing, seafood and tourism industries. Political opposition and a lack of funding prevented further action. As a result, council members and ocean stakeholders formed the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership to continue this work. Much of the ocean climate progress we see today can be attributed to the work of the Partnership.
As a former Member of Congress representing Maine’s First District, I welcome climate action at the state and local levels for its own sake and because I believe it will stimulate broader climate action at the national and international levels in the future.