Enhancing Equity Outcomes for the Maine Climate Council

In April 2020, the Mitchell Center was asked by the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future to lead a project focused on improving the equity outcomes of the Climate Action Plan being developed by the Maine Climate Council.

Working with colleagues in the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, the project team has developed goals for this assessment and the Mitchell Center’s roles in that process. Linda Silka, Mitchell Center senior fellow, David Hart, Mitchell Center director, and Sara Kelemen, a University of Maine graduate student of plant, soil, and environmental science, are leading the assessment.

Maine Climate Council’s equity charge

The 39-member Maine Climate Council advises the governor and the legislature on climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience strategies that will allow Maine to reduce the impacts of climate change on its residents, communities, industries and ecosystems. Its six working groups are made up of legislators, scientists, businesses, nonprofit organizations and foundations, community advocates and municipalities, Maine’s tribes, youth, leaders from federal, state and local governments, and members of the public.

The state of Maine has charged the Maine Climate Council to: ensure equity for all sectors and regions of the state, with consideration of economic, quality-of-life and public health benefits; and encourage diversity, equity and inclusion in its adaptation and resilience strategies.

The Climate Action Plan developed by the Maine Climate Council, to be submitted to the governor and legislature in December 2020, will recommend ways to address the adverse impacts of climate change on historically underrepresented populations in Maine, such as lower-income and rural populations, older adults, tribal communities, people of color, New Mainers, and people of differing abilities. The plan will also recommend how to grow economic opportunities in the transition to a lower carbon economy and how to provide support and retraining for industries and workers who may be most impacted by climate change.

Each of the working groups is conducting outreach to specific groups of stakeholders as part of their process to develop and recommend strategies for the Climate Council to consider. As part of that public outreach, the Maine Climate Council will create opportunities for historically underrepresented populations to be heard and to influence the Council’s recommendations, including residents who have limited Internet access and who might otherwise have difficulty participating in the climate planning process.

Mitchell Center team roles

Through this project, the Mitchell Center is assisting the Maine Climate Council to understand and improve the extent to which the draft strategies being considered ensure that the benefits of climate protection efforts are distributed equitably. The team is also addressing inequities in how the burdens created by climate change and the policies designed to alleviate it may affect people and communities.

This work builds on and augments the ongoing equity discussions and considerations by the Maine Climate Council and the working groups.

It also considers occurrences where vulnerable populations overlap with geographic areas of Maine that are likely to be substantially affected by climate change. These include regions strongly dependent on natural resources or seasonally dependent on tourism, coastal communities and low-lying areas near rivers, streams, and lakes, and remote communities where considerable distances must be traveled to reach healthcare, schools, emergency services and other resources and where transportation networks may be disrupted/impacted by climate change.

The project timeframe is from mid-June to early September 2020. The two main focuses are developing an equity framework for evaluating the draft climate strategies recommended by the working groups, and reviewing the strategies with the developed framework to identify how they can be improved to address equity issues.

The Mitchell Center is also advising on how best to invite feedback on the equity dimensions of the working group strategies as part of the public engagement that the Maine Climate Council will conduct over the summer.

After initial review, a draft report will be shared with the working group co-chairs for their feedback and consideration of modifications to the draft strategies based on the equity analysis. Project findings will be reported back to the Maine Climate Council through the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.

Research Team:

  • David Hart, Mitchell Center director
  • Linda Silka, Mitchell Center senior fellow
  • Sara Kelemen, UMaine graduate student in plant, soil, and environmental science

Report to the Maine Climate Council