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Environment and Outdoors

Student Activists Say Maine Leaders Should Declare A 'Climate Emergency'

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Robbie Feinberg
/
Maine Public
After getting several Maine towns to agree to address climate change, student activists are now calling on the state to declare a "climate emergency."

After getting several Maine towns to agree to address climate change, student activists are now calling on the state to declare a "climate emergency."

At a rally at Portland's City Hall Friday, hundreds of students and environmental activists called on the Mills Administration to follow the lead of several local cities and towns.

Julianna DiTomasso, with the group Sunrise Maine, says that would make Maine a leader in fighting climate change.

“One of our first steps is really getting our governments to understand that there is a climate emergency, and declare one,” DiTomasso says. “So we can start working on those policies that will transform our societies over the next 10 years. So we can avoid climate catastrophe.”

Over the past few months, youth activists have successfully lobbied for towns, including Portland and Bar Harbor, to pass climate resolutions that would speed up their goals to transition away from fossil fuels.

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Credit Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public
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Maine Public
Representatives of Sunrise Maine leading attendees in song at the rally.

Organizer Anna Siegel, an eighth-grade student from Yarmouth, says that declaring a climate emergency would put pressure on leaders to take more dramatic action against climate change.

“We are looking at the current goals in Maine, and thinking about the best stance to take on what a climate emergency might mean statewide,” Siegel says.

In a statement, a spokesperson says that the Mills Administration believes youth "are a critical part of this conversation," and says the governor "demanded" youth representative be included on the state's Climate Council. Mills has pledged for the state to be climate-neutral by 2045.

"The actions of our Administration, under the Governor’s leadership, demonstrate that we recognize and understand the magnitude and urgency of the problem, that we share their concerns about the future, and, most importantly, that we are taking action and know there is no time to waste," said spokesperson Lindsay Crete in an email.

Friday's strike was one of hundreds scheduled across the country, including events in Brunswick, Norway and on UMaine's campus in Orono.

Originally posted 4:44 p.m. Dec. 6, 2019