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Bar Harbor, Maine, is a 5,000-resident town along the northernmost state’s Frenchman’s Bay. It is known for its national park, Acadia, which sits just beside the quaint, seaside village’s roads. In the summer season, the population can swell to over 18,000, bringing new visitors, new revenue, and new pollution. 

Over the past year, the town of Bar Harbor has assembled a task force of adult residents and students alike. The task force is working to present a climate action plan to the town council focused on curbing harmful environmental practices that lead to rising sea levels, which could devastate towns like this one over the next few decades. 

“The goal of the action plan is really to give the town a blueprint of where to move in the future,” one student, Sirohi Kumar, said to the press. Sirohi is a student representative on the task force who currently attends a local high school, and her efforts towards increased sustainability initiatives have repeatedly been featured in the news over the past year. 

Photo courtesy of Wei Zeng

The Bar Harbor Task Force on Climate Emergency has been diligently crafting a feasible plan to mitigate the adverse effects of a changing climate. They are set to present a final document within the town’s budget constraints sometime this fall. The Action Plan outlines a clear trajectory for a more sustainable future, with reasonable steps to be taken by 2030. 

In November of 2019, Bar Harbor passed a Climate Emergency Declaration, and if this plan is implemented, it will be done with remarkable speed and resources. In late 2020, Maine’s state government launched a “Maine Won’t Wait” initiative, highlighting ways that the state can reduce emissions. According to experts, the state plan catalyzed an influx of more localized projects, too. 

The articulated goals of Bar Harbor’s Action Plan are subject to change pending new drafts, and all of them may not be adopted, but at current, some include: 

  • Eliminating the use of fossil fuels from all municipal operations and buildings by 2030. 
  • Support the development of generation and distribution of 100% renewable electricity by 2030, available to the entire community.
  • Encourage the development of a solar ordinance allowing stand-alone ground-mounted solar to assist in ensuring 100% of all municipal electricity use will be sourced from local solar arrays.
  • Increasing the number of electric vehicle charging stations. 
  • Switching public transportation to electric vehicles to reduce GHG.
  • Engage in public outreach and engagement projects in the town to help residents understand the initiatives and impact of climate change. 
  • Create online learning resources for residents regarding action plans, facts, and futures. 

The Action Plan is the first for Bar Harbor, but other municipalities in Maine have already presented similar plans to their respective governments. One of the most significant challenges to Bar Harbor is its limited budget, which larger cities or townships have not had to overcome. 

Despite this, Bar Harbor is no stranger to climate action. They have been undertaking town projects for several years by repeatedly highlighting the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) as a goal. 

Greenhouse gases are a major contributor to the increased likelihood of disastrous weather events and a destabilized environment. Despite assurances internationally (in lockstep with the Paris Agreement) to reduce these emissions and thus curb global an increase in temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, the current commitments now indicate an increase of .8 degrees higher than that, in the same timeframe. 

Photo courtesy of M. D. Weidner

Although the small town may not have the same impact as a major metropolis with industries far and wide, their commitment to doing what they can locally is a reminder that each locality has a part to play. 

The fate of this particular Action Plan remains unclear. Given the municipality’s propensity and demonstrated interest in being part of the solution, at least a portion of the measures will likely be adopted and installed as early as this fall.

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