Maine has surpassed its medium-term goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, positioning the state to become carbon neutral by 2045, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said in a report issued Thursday.

The Ninth Biennial Report on Progress Toward Greenhouse Reduction says gross greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 were 25 percent lower than levels measured in 1990, surpassing the medium-term goal of 10 percent reduction by 2020. Gross greenhouse gas emissions are those caused by human activities, such as the carbon dioxide that’s emitted when burning fossil fuels.

It’s the first time the report also has quantified the carbon sequestration benefits of forests, fields and wetlands, DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim said.

“It is essential for the creation and evaluation of emission reduction programs to take into account this more comprehensive view of carbon released and captured within Maine’s borders,” Loyzim said in a statement issued by the department.

The DEP said the report shows that Maine is well-positioned to meet its goal of being carbon neutral by 2045.

Maine also has statutory goals to reduce gross emissions by 45 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.


“Maine is making welcome progress in reducing harmful carbon emissions and in curbing our reliance on expensive fossil fuels,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a written statement. “With Maine’s climate plan, we will continue to partner with communities, businesses, and people across Maine to further reduce emissions, protect and preserve our environment, and strengthen our economy for future generations.”

The report says Maine is already three-quarters of the way toward its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045. That’s driven by the fact that 89 percent of the state is covered in forest, allowing 75 percent of all gross greenhouse gas emissions to be sequestered in the environment.

Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide to help combat climate change, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which says that natural ecosystems absorb about 25 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas. However, those impacts can fluctuate over time depending on land use decisions and natural disasters, like wildfires.

In addition to sequestration, both gross and per capita emissions also are declining because of decreased use of fossil fuels. The report says that gross emissions have dropped 37 percent since the 2002 peak, while per capita emissions have decreased 31 percent since 1990, despite a 9 percent increase in population.

Emissions from transportation remain a challenge, however. While notching an 8 percent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels, transportation still accounts for about half – 49 percent – of carbon emissions, the report says.

Under Mills, the Maine Climate Council released in December 2020 the Maine Won’t Wait, a four-year action plan to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. The state also is looking to increase Maine Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard from the current 40 percent to 80 percent by 2030, with the goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.



Jeff Marks, executive director of ClimateWork Maine, a new organization urging businesses to take climate action toward a carbon-free economy, commended the state’s action to fight climate change.

“Around the world, brutal heat waves, violent storms, prolonged droughts, and other climate disasters are challenging public and private entities to create and implement sound mitigation and adaptation strategies,” Marks said in a written statement. “The business community needs to lead this change and support states like Maine that are taking concrete steps to transition to a clean energy and carbon-constrained economy. We can do this while growing Maine businesses and providing the trained workforce necessary to complete the transition.”

Marks said Maine is making strides primarily because it is so undeveloped, saying that forests and natural landscapes sequester a lot of carbon. He noted that the Maine Won’t Wait climate action plan calls for more land conservation. But he also cautioned against relying too heavily on sequestration, highlighting the importance of shifting to renewable energy and weatherizing homes.

“Maine is better positioned than most other states, and many countries, in making carbon sequestration a primary tool in its climate toolbox,” he said. “With the right investments and focus on our woods and water resources, we can likely capture even more carbon and offset further emissions from all sectors of our economy, especially the most troublesome transportation sector.

“The Maine Climate Action Plan rightly calls for even more conserved land acreage. We’ve got this natural land resource, we should flaunt it as part of our overall climate strategy.”

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