Viewpoint: 2020 Bar Harbor Task Force on Climate Emergency status report

By Brian Booher on behalf of the Task Force

The Task Force on Climate Emergency was approved by the Bar Harbor Town Council in 2020 and began meeting last June. The mission of the Task Force is to recommend climate goals for our town with the objective of drawing down carbon from the atmosphere and reducing community-wide greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by Dec. 31, 2030.

It has been a challenge just trying to figure out where to begin. First, we must work to educate ourselves, the Council and our community on the specifics of climate change, how it is caused, the effects and how we might address it. We have received many helpful suggestions.

Our initial focus has been on reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions for municipal functions – primarily for town building heat and vehicle fuel. COA Task Force members are entering past town heating and fuel bills into a tool for tracking GHG’s. From this tool we can assess where we produce the most GHG’s and recommend ways to reduce or replace fuels to reduce emissions.

We are reaching out to other organizations to build relationships and support each other’s efforts. We have looked at electric vehicle charging stations with A Climate to Thrive (ACTT) and look forward to Parking Solutions Task Force proposals regarding where charging stations could be installed. We are looking at ways we can align with Maine Climate Council goals and their four-year plan released on Dec 1.

As we review the town’s GHG emissions, we will recommend ways to use existing funds in the town’s Capital Improvement budget to create low-emission solutions for town operations. We are looking at a quick win to switch the town’s electricity to 100 percent renewable in the short term and support local solar projects in the medium term that would reduce the town’s costs for electricity.

We are looking at the effects of climate change and how the town should plan for rising sea levels as well as other changes brought on by warming temperatures. The MDI High School environmental sciences class gave presentations to the Task Force and the Town Council on near- and long-term effects of climate change on Mount Desert Island.

With ACTT, we are co-sponsoring a public presentation of this student research on Jan. 8 at 5:30 p.m. with a public Zoom forum open to all. It’s a valuable introduction to climate change issues. Register for this event on ACTT’s website events page.

Thanks to the ongoing work of Town Manager Cornell Knight and town staff, we are not starting from zero. Efforts to reduce GHG emissions were already underway. We have asked the Town Council to include climate mitigation goals as part of their annual goal setting and they have put specific goals for reducing GHG’s into their annual planning process.

We welcome your input to Task Force work. Our meetings are held by Zoom, usually on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, from 3:30-5 p.m. Check the town website for further details, agendas, minutes and more.


Brian Booher is the chairman of the Task Force on Climate Emergency.

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