Bar Harbor Declares a Climate Emergency

“Imagine a Bar Harbor where the bar is permanently underwater, where there are no lobster boats or traps because of ocean acidification and warming, where there are no whale sightings because they've all moved away, where there are no tourists because it's too hot during the summer, and where Acadia National Park is on fire. This is my future if we do nothing.” - MDI High School Student at Bar Harbor’s Town Council

October 20th, Bar Harbor.

Last night (October 19th), the Town of Bar Harbor officially endorsed the Declaration of Climate Emergency, and committed to come up with an action plan within the next 30 days to address the issues that Climate Change poses. The motion approved goes as follows:

“The Town Council of Bar Harbor declares a climate emergency exit and threatens our community and it is the intention that the community creates a Climate Mobilization Action plan to respond. This will be done within the next 30 days.”

Earth in Brackets members along with MDI High School Students presented at Bar Harbor’s Town Council a resolution endorsing the declaration of a climate emergency and demanding emergency efforts to restore a safe climate. The resolution modelled after the 1175 other resolutions that have been endorsed at local governments asks the town of Bar Harbor to recognize the imminent threat of climate change and join the global efforts to transform every sector of our economy by 2030, so that we can prevent our planet from warming beyond an average of 1.5 °C.

Why is this important to the Town of Bar Harbor?

Research shows the Gulf of Maine is warming 99% faster than other oceans around the world, warming ocean temperatures in addition to ocean acidification pose a serious risk to lobstering and other fishing industries in Bar Harbor, essential to the economy and culture of the town, and the rest of Mount Desert Island (MDI). Moreover, climate change has led to marked shifts in local seasonal temperature changes that threaten the natural ecosystems and weather patterns of MDI. These shifts also pose a threat to economic activity such as tourism and seasonal recreation activities. Warming temperatures also present a risk to public health due to increased local incidence of tick borne illnesses such as Lyme Disease. Lastly, rising sea levels due to climate change are eroding wetlands and beaches across the coast of Maine, increasing damage and vulnerability of Bar Harbor and other coastal towns during severe storms. These are just some of the examples that are included in the resolution drafted and presented by the students.

What does the resolution ask of the town of Bar Harbor?

The resolution recognizes Bar Harbor’s possibility to act as a leader in the State of Maine and worldwide to the emergency climate mobilization. Practically, it asks for the town to: (1) end greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to initiate GHGs drawdown effort; (2) contribute towards the goal of making MDI energy independent (prioritizing zero-carbon solutions for local electricity, heating and transportation systems; (3) Recognize the full participation, inclusion and support of all stakeholders for the just transition of the town towards these mobilization efforts as integral to the climate emergency; (4) Educate municipal staff on the latest climate science, and climate risk to Bar Harbor and MDI, and the mobilization of resources needed in response within two weeks from today; (5) the Bar Harbor Town Council directs all Bar Harbor departments, proprietaries, and commissions to report back within 60 days of the date of the all-staff meeting referenced above on maximum emergency reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from their operations feasible by the end of 2030; (6) The creation of a Bar Harbor Climate Emergency Task Force with representatives from staff, local youth, and other stakeholders to work on the planning and coordinating of the town’s climate emergency response, including the development of Climate Mobilization Action Plan to guide said efforts. ; (7) Designation of at least 1% of the town’s annual budget to accelerate greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the community and to hire staff to coordination the implementation of Bar Harbor’s Climate Mobilization Action Plan.

How it was received.

The council composed by Gary Friedman, Stephen Coston, Erin Cough, Matthew Hochman, Jill Goldtwaith, Jeff Dobbs, and Joe Minutolo had a few days to revise the resolution, and some of them seem like they have had more time to review it than others. Town council members praised students for their work on the resolution and their presentation, however they also presented concerns about the implementation of the resolution and generally asked for time to think it through.

That being said, all but one council members were in support of the recognition that Climate Change poses a threat to our community and that a lack of action can result in catastrophic disaster for our community. Stepehen Coston, responded with concerns about the language of the resolution - which for him came out as aggressive; and the validity of the scientific data presented in the resolution. Stephen asked for scientists to assess the situation, and suggested that the Town Council was not the right forum to present such resolution.

Jeff Dobbs, chair of the Town Council, pointed to the need to involve more of the stakeholders of the island in the development of an action plan. “We need everybody to partner up, Jackson Lab, College of the Atlantic, they need to join us in this effort.'' said Dobbs.

As far as actions proposed, there were a few proposals thrown including the facilitation of a Climate Action Summit at College of the Atlantic to bring together all stakeholders to discuss the implications of a Climate Emergency and come up with substantial and meaningful Climate Mobilization Action Plan.

This friday, the town council will meet with student representatives of Earth in Brackets, MDI High School Eco-Team, and members of a Climate to Thrive a local NGO whose mission is to make MDI Energy Independent by 2030 to discuss further about the implications of the resolution and draft action plans.

We are very excited about what is next to come.

What happened yesterday at the Town Council is just the beginning of the work we must do to address the climate emergency we are under in Bar Harbor, and we hope that the movement will soon expand to all the other towns of Mount Desert Island.

We would like to thank our collaborators from the MDIHS Eco-Team, Thomas Korstanje, Ayano Ishimura, Matilda Allen, and Sirohi Kumar for presenting the resolution to the town council, and all of the other 100+ town members and students that showed up to support our resolution. We could have not done it without you.

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