On Friday April 8th, 2022 Governor Hogan announced that he would allow the Climate Solutions Now Act, SB528, to pass into law. This is a huge accomplishment, the culmination of three years of campaigning and organizing from Sierra Club and dozens of other partners.
Sierra Club thanks and applauds the legislative champions of this bill and the many legislators in Annapolis who devoted their time and energy to pass this landmark legislation.
But most of all we want to recognize the amazing work of Sierra Club staff and volunteers, our partners like League of Conservation Voters, NAACP, CASA, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Maryland Legislative Coalition, Interfaith Power & Light, Climate Partners, and so many more who came together to make this possible.
Below is a summary of what this bill does and a quick summary of the major role Sierra Club played in getting it enacted.
In a nutshell, the Climate Solutions Now Act:
- Sets a statewide GHG reduction goal of 60% by 2031, net zero by 2045
- Establishes a building energy performance standard for buildings over 35,000 square feet, achieving a 20% reduction in direct emissions by 2030 and net-zero by 2040.
- Increases the state's annual energy efficiency goals, and commits to shifting to a greenhouse gas metric (as opposed to an electricity consumption metric) by 2025.
- Codifies a definition of environmental justice impacted communities that will be used to allocate 40% of program funds to overburdened communities
- Creates an improved long-term planning process to create the grid we need to support increased renewable energy and storage. This was a stand-alone bill called the GRID Act which was folded into the omnibus climate bill.
- And many more important provisions relating to just-transition of fossil fuels, school bus electrification, building electrification and efficiency and environmental justice.
Sierra Club contributed in major ways to the campaign to pass the Climate Solutions Now Act.
In February Maryland Chapter leaders organized a virtual lobby night, where over 250 people held 78 meetings with over 120 legislators. Our organizing team helped generate over 3,500 constituent emails to legislators about the legislation. The chapter director and lobbyist held over 50 additional meetings and worked diligently to keep the bill as strong as possible in both houses of the legislature as it worked through many weakening attempts (some successful) and hurdles thrown up by bill opponents. Chapter staff and volunteers held and participated in multiple rallies in Annapolis and worked with many partner groups to maintain an active social media presence in support of the bill.
The Chapter is most proud to have contributed to a better, more democratic and transparent coalition space. Sierra Club was one of three coordinators of the newly formed "Climate Partners" which created space for 50 organizations to develop and organize for our shared agenda. We worked closely with League of Conservation Voters, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Strong Future Maryland as well as NAACP, CASA, and other environmental justice partners, and had technical and legal support from current and former Sierra Club staff. Sierra Club volunteers from Montgomery County brought special policy expertise gained through their work pushing their county to create its own local building performance program. The bill’s success is in part attributed to this extraordinary, all around team effort!
Sierra Club’s work has received consistent and wide media coverage, including multiple quotes in Baltimore Sun, local NPR, AP, local blogs, and more. This is thanks to many people including national staff member Ricky Junquera who went above and beyond to provide support even during late evening votes.
Check out these two articles for a sample of the coverage:
- Maryland Lawmakers Pass New Requirements To Cut Carbon Emissions (dcist.com)
- Maryland General Assembly passes sweeping climate change legislation, sending to Gov. Hogan under threat of veto – Baltimore Sun
Sierra Club Maryland Chapter Director Josh Tulkin describes the Climate Solutions Now legislation as “a commitment, a down payment on the policies to come.”
While we are excited about the state committing to such strong climate reductions, it will take a lot of work to actually meet the goals. The next governor, the legislature, and, of course, advocates, have their work cut out for them.
To name a few next steps, we need to:
- Work with MDE to establish strong regulations for the building energy performance standards.
- Ensure the climate action plan (expected 2023) actually gets us to our goals.
- Push the legislature to adopt an all-electric construction standard and adopt the Advanced Clean Truck Rule, two policies which will unquestionably be part of our path to 60% reduction (so why wait?).
- Track and safeguard the environmental justice provisions, for example, the requirement for the first time, that the Maryland Department of the Environment examine the cumulative impacts of emitting sources concentrated in environmental justice communities.
We also must remember to take a breath and pause to savor a hard-fought victory and a landmark piece of climate legislation we just helped enact.