COMMENTARY:

Maryland Falls Behind On Global Warming

by Tim Willard
Parties to the Kyoto Protocol are meeting in Montreal until December 9. While the US has been obstructionist, mayors and governors around the country are acting on their own to cut global warming pollution. Unfortunately, Maryland has been nearly absent in this effort.
Global warming is back in the headlines. A devastating hurricane season, record shrinking of the Arctic ice pack, and melting permafrost all set the background for the meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Montreal, November 28 through December 9. Much attention is on the United States, the one major holdout from the treaty. But while the federal government has been obstructionist, mayors and governors around the country are acting on their own to cut global warming pollution. Unfortunately, Maryland has been nearly absent in this effort, something that we Marylanders should rectify.

December 3rd will be a day of worldwide demonstrations pressing for urgent action on climate change. Naturally, the Bush administration will be a major target of these demonstrations. Local events include “Bush fiddles while the world burns,” featuring violinists with handouts on global warming, and a hybrid car parade around the White House.

These protests are certainly well-earned, but they should not ignore the action being taken locally, nor should they ignore the cities and states that have done nothing. On the day that the Kyoto agreement went into effect, Seattle Mayor, Greg Nickels, challenged mayors across the country to take action to reduce global warming pollution. In March, 10 mayors representing more than 3 million Americans announced the Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, pledging to reduce global warming emissions seven percent below 1990 levels. In June, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously endorsed the agreement and many of the mayors signed the pledge. The number has now grown to 188 cities representing over 40 million Americans, and includes major cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Annapolis is the only Maryland city to sign the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Baltimore is the only major northeastern city that has not signed the agreement.

On the state level, nine northeastern states from Maine to Delaware have formed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in to develop a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. On the west coast, California, Oregon and Washington have created a similar global warming pact. Fifteen states have adopted programs that require utilities to increase their use of clean energy sources, such as wind and sun; in addition, twelve states and three cities have filed suit to try to force the federal government to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants.

While this local and state end run around Bush administration policy is heartening, Maryland appears to be AWOL from the effort. Annapolis is the only Maryland city to sign the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Baltimore is the only major northeastern city that has not signed the agreement. Maryland is an observer in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative but not a participant. Even worse, Governor Ehrlich is working to remove carbon dioxide from any bill to reduce pollution from power plants.

Governor Ehrlich is working to remove carbon dioxide from any bill to reduce pollution from power plants.

It’s time that Maryland governments stop dragging their feet on global warming. Voters should urge Mayor O’Malley to sign the Mayors’ Agreement. All candidates for governor next year should make their position on regional cooperation known. Maryland ought to be a leader on global warming and not a laggard.


Tim Willard is a member of the Maryland Green Party and is active with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. He may be reached at dravidic@yahoo.com.



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This story was published on December 1, 2005.