Maryland Del. Dana Stein plans to submit a bill that would require the state to join the United States Climate Alliance, a group staunchly opposed to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
While Gov. Larry Hogan has so far declined to bring Maryland into the alliance, Stein (D-District 11) told the JT he is committed to ensuring Maryland remains “a national leader” in greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
“There needs to be a mechanism for reporting on emission reductions under the [Paris] climate accord,” said Stein, who is a member of the Maryland Commission on Climate. “Also, there is symbolic value, because it’s important with the U.S. withdrawing, states step up and combat global climate change.”
A dozen states, most of which are governed by Democratic majorities, formed the alliance to commit to the Paris pact. The United States is now one of three countries that isn’t part of the agreement, which sets individual targets for countries to help slow or reverse global climate change.
If Hogan does not sign into the alliance, Stein said he will pre-file his bill in early August for next year’s legislative session, which convenes in Annapolis on Jan. 10.
Under the terms of the Paris deal, withdrawal can’t begin until November 2019, three years after the agreement took effect. Then, the U.S. must give a year’s notice, meaning withdrawal would not take place until November 2020, shortly after the next presidential election.
Hogan, a Republican, said through spokeswoman Hannah Marr that he has not ruled out bringing Maryland into the agreement but is “still learning about the initiative.”
Hogan’s office also expressed concern over the Republican president’s decision to pull out — and showed support for the Paris agreement — saying that it’s “not an action the governor would have taken.”
Marr declined to comment if Stein’s legislation would have any impact on the governor joining the alliance.
Stein said he submitted a request for a different bill on June 1 — the day Trump announced the withdrawal — that would have called for the Maryland Department of the Environment to enter into individual negotiations with the United Nations to accept the state’s greenhouse gas reduction plan under the Paris accord. But he withdrew that request, citing the growth of the alliance from the three original states — California, New York and Washington — to its current total of 12.
“It seems the alliance will be attempting to have the U.N. recognize it at least unofficially,” Stein said. “It just makes sense for Maryland to join the alliance as a whole rather than going about this on our own.”
Baltimore Jewish environmental advocates, meanwhile, said it would send a strong message if Hogan joined the alliance by signing an executive order.
Jakir Manela, executive director of the Pearlstone Conference & Retreat Center, helped draft a joint statement with local and national Jewish leaders in support of the Paris climate agreement. As of Monday, it had been signed by 28 rabbis, teachers and other organizational leaders.
The statement, obtained by the JT on Monday, outlined a commitment “to working with interested parties within and beyond the Jewish community on this critical issue that will define our generation’s legacy.”
Walking away from the Paris accord “turns a symbol of American leadership into a symbol of global isolation,” said Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, founder and director of the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network at Pearlstone.
“Why the United States would choose to put itself in the company of Syria and Nicaragua against the rest of the entire global nation is just beyond me,” Cardin said, referring to the other two countries that are not signed into the alliance. “If for nothing else, optics make this look absolutely horrific.”
Cardin, who works to educate the broader Jewish community on environmental issues, said it’s important to remember that the first two chapters of the Torah address the relationship between Earth and humanity.
“That’s the bedrock and foundation of our whole Torah,” Cardin said. “So if we don’t get that right, then there’s no Torah that follows, because then the Earth is not here to observe it. It’s so obvious and transparent that if we don’t get our relationship with the Earth right, it’s game over.”
Because the U.S. is Earth’s second-largest polluter, according to the World Bank, American Jewish World Service president and CEO Robert Bank said he feels withdrawing from the agreement is a major setback to fight climate change.
“The longer the U.S. denies climate change and fails to take responsibility for its outsized contribution to global warming, the greater the risk posed to the entire world, especially the poorest people on Earth,” Bank said in a prepared statement.
Potential Democratic challengers for governor have used the pullout as an opportunity to tie Hogan to Trump, who is widely unpopular in Maryland.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat who is considering a gubernatorial run, took a jab at Hogan on Twitter after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, announced on Monday that his state would join the alliance.
— Kevin Kamenetz (@kevinkamenetz) June 5, 2017
Marr disputed that notion, noting that Hogan “has been leading by example to protect Maryland’s environment since his first day in office.”
Last year, for example, Hogan signed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction into law, requiring a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Marr also pointed out that Maryland is part of a nine-state compact initiative, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which requires electricity generators to bid for the right to continue emitting carbon.
Since joining RGGI in 2007 under Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, investment funds through the program have supported renewable energy at 7,587 households and saved state residents $457 million in estimated lifetime energy bill savings, among other things.
Marr said the state’s greenhouse gas law includes “some of the most aggressive air quality goals in the country … significantly stronger than the Paris Accord recommendations.”
Hogan also invested more than $3 billion in efforts to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay in March after Trump proposed to eliminate $73 million to oversee cleanup efforts for the bay. Congress eventually voted to fully restoring funding for the program.
“Gov. Hogan has clearly and repeatedly demonstrated a deep-rooted commitment to protecting and preserving Maryland’s natural resources for future generations,” Marr said.
This story has been updated to reflect the joint statement Manela helped draft.