Each year, New England’s six governors and Eastern Canada’s five premiers gather to talk about the biggest issues facing the region. And naturally, climate change and clean energy are always on the table.
It’s a critical meeting of regional leaders, one that can act as a springboard for individual action in each state and province. In the early 2000s, for example, the group agreed upon a regional climate action plan, which set climate goals for each state and province. Massachusetts and Connecticut later went on to codify those goals into binding laws.
As this year’s meeting unfolds on Prince Edward Island over the next two days, we are expecting the release of an updated climate plan, though we don’t know for certain that it will be revealed at this year’s meeting. Regardless, this conference has been a major driver of climate action for New England and Eastern Canada, and this venue is ripe for further climate and energy leadership. We hope our New England governors will seize the opportunity.
A Stage Set for Climate Leadership
New England governors once again have an opportunity to lead the way on climate — this time with their Eastern Canadian counterparts at their side. This group knows that climate change and its impacts are here now, and that they threaten everything we love about New England. Climate change is driving serious change in the Northeast — shorter maple-sugaring seasons, smaller blueberry harvests, a predicted collapse of lobster populations, more severe weather all year round. If our governors want to save the most iconic aspects of New England and protect their people moving forward, now is the time to step up.
A few governors have shown that they are not entirely averse to the challenge. All but two New England state Governors – New Hampshire’s Governor Sununu and Maine’s Governor LePage — have condemned Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and have signed onto the U.S. Climate Alliance.
Massachusetts’ Governor Baker in particular has made progress. In the past year, he issued an executive order on climate change and helped update the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) to set enforceable limits on carbon pollution from the state’s power plants. He also signed a major clean energy bill in 2016 to boost energy from renewable sources, such as offshore wind, and has expressed support for the stronger emissions caps just proposed under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Now it’s time for him to go further. As the governor of New England’s largest state, we need him to continue this leadership on a regional scale. He can start at this meeting.
Pushing Through Challenges
While the stage is set for real climate leadership, there’s at least one governor – Governor Sununu — who has publicly denied climate change and disavowed any state responsibility for proactive change. Meanwhile, some other New England governors — who’ve admitted that climate change is a real problem facing real people in their state — have yet to turn their nice words into real action.
Back in July, our governors failed to seize the opportunity for climate leadership when they gathered at the National Governors Association meeting in Providence, RI. So we urge them now to step up and make a meaningful, region wide commitment to slashing carbon emissions and supporting clean energy. Our region needs real plans and enforceable laws, not just goals and non-binding resolutions. Our Governors and the Eastern Canadian Premiers have a responsibility to everyone in the region to fight for the people they represent, especially against the devastating impacts of climate change.
Here in New England, CLF has been working in each state to push for real action. It’s an uphill battle. From pushing the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to follow up its bold talk with enforceable action, to shaming the climate deniers who hold office, CLF is committed to getting laws that slash carbon pollution on the books in every New England state. This week’s conference is a chance for our New England Governors to step up into this fight themselves. We hope they are up to the challenge.
CLF’s Vice President for Climate Change and Clean Energy Greg Cunningham is on the ground in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island for this week’s conference. Look for an update from Greg as the conference unfolds.