University of Maryland community members, local leaders and researchers discussed innovative strategies to further the university and state’s climate goals at the public policy school Monday morning.

The workshop — hosted by this university’s global sustainability center and the Maryland environment department — was an opportunity for attendees to reflect on the state’s ambitious goals and develop new partnerships with fresh ideas, according to Nate Hultman, the center’s founder and director.

“Let us today seize this opportunity to leverage our collective expertise, resources and energy to drive meaningful change to build a brighter, more sustainable future for Maryland,” Hultman, a professor in the public policy school, said.

Maryland’s environment secretary, Serena McIlwain, delivered the workshop’s keynote address and emphasized the state’s “aggressive” goals to combat climate change through the Climate Pollution Reduction Plan.

The plan, released in late 2023, established policies to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions 60 percent in 2031 and reach net-zero emissions by 2045.

Maryland is moving toward its goals and will accelerate the transition from fuel, fuel-burning vehicles and stationary equipment to efficient electric alternatives, according to McIlwain. The transition is a win-win for Marylanders, but comes with a hefty price tag of about $1 billion, she added.

“Sometimes climate change seems like a huge, insurmountable problem and sometimes we all get frustrated with all the solutions and things that we need to do, but I just want to remind everyone of the extreme progress that we’re making,” McIlwain told attendees.

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University president Darryll Pines also spoke at the event and applauded the steps taken to reduce this university’s carbon footprint.

“Climate change is a grand challenge that demands action from each one of us,” Pines said.

Pines confirmed Monday that this university is guaranteed to be carbon neutral by 2025. He originally made this pledge in 2021.

New policies and a growing effort to reduce carbon footprints across campus — such as installing more electric vehicle charging stations, increasing composting and recycling rates and decreasing facility electricity consumption — are helping this university meet its climate goals, Pines said.

Peggy Mothershed, the undergraduate representative on this university’s sustainability council, praised students’ ability to spur climate action nationwide.

The Student Government Association’s Sustainability Committee recently founded the Student Sustainability Summit to discuss ways to combat climate change, Mothershed, a senior environmental science and policy major, said.

Last year, more than 300 students from across the globe gathered for the virtual summit, Mothershed said. In the summit, students were able to explore solutions to climate change and sustainability, according to Mothershed.

“We don’t only hope for the future,” Mothershed said. “We are taking action now.”

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Climate leaders reflected on next steps to address climate change in Prince George’s County and Maryland during the event’s panel portion.

Kim Coble, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ executive director, urged attendees — specifically students — to become storytellers about the realities of climate change and emphasized the impact of individual voices.

“Take the information you are learning and talk about it in a meaningful, personal way,” Coble said. “You have a story… because your whole life is encompassed with this challenge.”

Prince George’s County environment department director Andrea Crooms implored event attendees to think about climate change by reflecting on what each person can do individually to address the problem.

“It’s important that we think about it inclusively and we think about how our neighbors can be a part of this within the larger scheme of all of the things that are important to them,” Crooms said.

Coble also highlighted the importance of voting and pressing local and state leaders for impactful climate action.

“The most effective and important action you will take if you care about climate change is to vote,” Coble said. “So learn how your elected officials are representing your views, your thoughts, your interests and climate.”