Climate action plan for Rockland unveiled

By Stephen Betts | May 11, 2019

Rockland — The Rockland City Council will meet May 20 to consider a plan to combat climate change that would be the most ambitious in the state, according to a lead author of the report. The council workshop is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Nate Davis, chair of Rockland's Energy Advisory Committee, is urging the public to attend and support the proposals detailed in the committee's report. The committee has been meeting for more than a year to develop recommendations. Those recommendations were submitted to the council in March.

"We unanimously sent City Council a proposed high-level Climate Action Plan that, among other things, recommends that Rockland set a goal of our entire community becoming carbon-neutral by 2045," Davis said in an email statement.

"This is a moment of tremendous opportunity, and potentially a big deal for Rockland, the Midcoast, and Maine at large. As far as we know, the goals in the Climate Energy Plan would be the most ambitious municipal goals in the state. If you consider climate change to be one of the paramount challenges of our time — and perhaps the paramount challenge of our time — then you are no doubt as frustrated as I am by the slow pace of change at all levels," Davis said.

The committee chair pointed to some efforts that have already been taken in Rockland, including bicycle infrastructure, improved recycling, Weatherize Rockland and the community farm at MacDougal Park,

"We should applaud all of them. But these efforts amount to a small fraction of the action necessary to avert the worst aspects of climate change. Rockland needs an institutional commitment to doing our part in this global struggle — and in fact we have made such a commitment on paper," he said.

The statement that a 2017 diversity resolution approved by the City Council pledged that Rockland "will also continue doing its part to protect the environment and mitigate climate change through local action aimed at reducing waste and pollution, planning for rising seas, promoting energy efficiency and sustainable generation, and being good stewards of our natural resources."

He said, however, as a community, that commitment has not been taken seriously.

The proposed Climate Action plan calls for Rockland to be carbon-neutral by 2045. By 2025, the city of Rockland should obtain all of its municipal electricity from renewable sources, according to the plan.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the world needs to be carbon-neutral by 2050 in order to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 C to avoid the worst of the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise, and adhere to the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.

Other recommendations are:

Dedicate roles and positions in city government to meet stated goals; hire a full-time sustainability coordinator to create, execute and seek funding for programs to help achieve the energy goals; hire a part-time staff member to perform marketing/public relations work to support these goals.

Develop renewable local power generation. A first step would be to transition the city government’s energy needs to renewable sources. A next step would be to use renewable power to supply the entire community’s electricity needs, for example via a municipal or regional utility. Identify areas of the city which could be used for wind, solar or tidal power generation.

Craft city policy to reduce greenhouse gasses and improve energy independence. This would include the construction and renovation of efficient buildings, zoning requirements for renewable energy development, creating a more walkable, wheelable city and encouraging more people who work in Rockland to live here. Creating a building improvement revolving loan fund via a bond and using this fund to upgrade building efficiency, insulation and heat sources. This would be an expansion of the Weatherize Rockland program and would include incentives to encourage landlords to weatherize.

Reduce energy consumption. Convert city streetlights to LED bulbs, a full audit of lighting needs, employing motion detection where appropriate, and adopting a dark sky policy which both reduces energy usage and adds to the natural beauty of the city. Further reductions in energy consumption in both the city government and community at large would help the city better reach its goals.

Eliminate reliance on fossil fuels for home heating.This would have to be accomplished through a combination of improved efficiency and replacement of existing nonrenewable heating sources with those that are more renewable (heat pumps, wood, pellets, solar, etc.)

Make transportation energy-efficient. For instance: implementing a complete streets policy that encourages walking and cycling and is welcoming to wheelchair users, supporting the community bus and helping increase its route and ridership, subsidizing taxi services, and adding electric vehicle charging stations to strengthen the electric vehicle corridor. Any new municipal vehicle purchases should meet city-set standards for efficiency and consumption.

Develop a community outreach and education program. Potential partners include schools, civic and business groups, nonprofits, etc. Develop educational and fun outreach on issues such as: zero waste, water use reduction and water-saving techniques, composting, tips for reducing energy usage, considering more plant-based diets, upcycling rather than recycling, buying used, carbon footprint and cradle-to- grave education in general on topics such as the way in which we are connected to global pollution via server farms, flying, etc.

Form alliances with regional communities and larger organizations that can help the city continue towards its goals, including joining the Global Covenant of Mayors, which can provide additional resources. Also, the report says, there are a number of opportunities on the horizon for collaboration with the state government.

Comments (6)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | May 12, 2019 12:08

Many of the changes needed will save us money. By the way. if anyone thinks we are REBUILDING  the roads; such a Lovejoy Street; on the old bond issue, they need to check it out and see the figures. No way, Jose. We put it off and are going to end up paying a hefty price for the damage done. Just like leaky roof: Pay me NOW or pay more later.



Posted by: Jane Karker | May 12, 2019 11:01

There will always be potholes and school budgets to deal with. If we put off addressing climate change until the everyday challenges are solved then we never will. The tasks are not mutually exclusive. We must address climate change NOW from all directions, including the grassroots level. Good for Rockland PS Here in the st George peninsula we are having a bounty year for lobstering because the Mass/NH lobster are moving north according to studies and as discussed at the fisherman’s forum. Our community needs to prepare for further movement. If we think the opioid problem plagues some of our beautiful young lobstermen now...just wait until the industry crashes. Act. Volunteer. Vote. Donate. Budget. Care. We have potholes AND climate change.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | May 12, 2019 08:54

Remember the movie "The Thomas Crown Affair" ?   A wealthy businessman hires a group of thugs that break into a museum and create a lot of chaos while he quietly steals the painting.   Just what do you think is going on here.  The council creates all this chatter about climate change distracting the general public from the fact they are doing absolutely nothing about the real issues facing our city right now.  Will a focus on correcting climate change fix your roads, better educate your children or lower your property taxes ??  Good job council, what's next a new dog park ?



Posted by: Mary A McKeever | May 11, 2019 13:03

Kudos to Rockland to start this immense project of change and education. It will be hard for most people but in the end the young will come along and go forward.



Posted by: Deborah Clarisse Morrison | May 11, 2019 08:34

Adds to the "Natural Beauty" of the city by having a dark sky policy...I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  What we really need is a road and waste committee!  The taxes are way out of control.



Posted by: Colleen Richmon | May 11, 2019 06:19

Congratulations, Rockland City Council, for taking these first steps towards combatting climate change.



If you wish to comment, please login.