Green Economic Recovery

Green Economic Recovery

Michael Surran, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The one-two punch of recession-pandemic this year has made vulnerability a more pressing topic globally. While resiliency has been discussed in our previous blog post, how to develop it requires a thorough understanding of where the metaphorical weakest link is. COVID-19 has proven to be an accelerant in many industries both in terms of developing trends and uncovering flaws in our economy. These vulnerabilities become much more apparent when considering the risk to human life imposed to our communities. 

U.S.News & World Report ranked Maine as the most economically vulnerable state to the pandemic. Maine has the highest percentage of citizens over the age of 65 (20.6%) and our economy is the 6th most dependent on tourism and hospitality. The state is in economic hardship from missing out on the full summer tourist season which has rippling effects across small businesses. While the pandemic may not be a long-term problem for the state, the vulnerabilities it has exposed will be and should be addressed now to develop resilience.

Looking further ahead, Maine has other long-term economic vulnerabilities. The dependency on tourism and hospitality has shown us that having diverse industry representation like manufacturing and skilled professionals is essential for economic resiliency and growth. The global climate crisis will have lasting impacts to the state’s economy and public health. The Gulf of Maine has been found to be warming faster than 99% of the global ocean, disrupting the fishing industry and weather patterns in the area. The threat of sea level rise will dramatically impact coastal communities around the state which represent 34% of its population. The economic impact of these changes means that the once scenic locations are at greater risk of flooding, higher insurance rates, and less attractive for industry. Due to these challenges, Governor Janet Mills has set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2040 and 80% by 2050. 

A new study from Robert Pollin and the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass-Amherst shows how to start the economic recovery in Maine by addressing the climate crisis.  The primary directive is for the state to invest in large scale projects to update the energy structure of the state. Coming from both the supply and demand side with energy efficiency standards and expanding on renewable energy in wind and solar. Given the temperature shifts in the state, energy efficiency is invaluable to buildings in the area so public buildings would undergo deep energy retrofits.

The economic impact of the program would be dramatic, estimating that $2 billion in investment from public and private sources would create nearly 15,000 jobs by 2022;  An investment of this scale would represent 2-2.5% of Maine’s economy each year.  Short term stimulus will boost the current recovery and long-term infrastructure investment will create jobs at scale and with longevity. The long-term annual investment of $500 million from 2021-2030 would create 7,300 jobs per year. These would be good paying working class jobs that would support Maine families. 1

Transitioning into clean energy will  help shape a new perspective around climate policy with equity in mind. Creating good working-class jobs demonstrates that tackling climate change isn’t an elitist issue and the benefits of doing so far outweigh the costs. Nate Barr of Zootility, tool manufacturer turned mask maker, has a factory right next to the Portland Waterfront, he says “If we don’t tackle climate change, we’ll literally be underwater.” While it may be more expensive to address climate change than ignore it in the short term a greater vulnerability will be exposed in the not so long-term. Climate change will then cripple local economies much like COVID-19 has already. 

Our firm looks to address environmental issues to improve economic conditions. We do this by expanding our perspective to see how vulnerabilities can transition into resiliencies. Maine wasn’t built to handle COVID-19, but it can develop the infrastructure to combat the climate crisis and come back stronger from this pandemic. 

Policy implementation like this will need broad public support to create significant change. Elected officials base decisions on their constituents’ views highlighting the importance of clear public opinion. Look at your elected officials and see their stance on climate change. Write to them and share your views on making the economy more equitable and sustainable to create the shift needed for change. Policy decisions are one of the most effective ways to address climate change and develop a more climate conscious economy. We understand that political views are very personal but the impacts of climate change will be very real. Knowing where elected officials stand before November 3rd will make you an informed voter and citizen, but most importantly, make sure you vote.

Written by Tom Dolloff, Intern

  1. Schreiber, Laurie. “New Study: Maine Can Recover from Economic Crisis by Addressing Climate Change.” Mainebiz, 31 Aug. 2020, www.mainebiz.biz/article/new-study-maine-can-recover-from-economic-crisis-by-addressing-climate-change?utm_source=Newsletter.

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