Stories in Maryland/DC

Legislative Priorities: Leading Maryland Forward

We're striving for a greener, more resilient Maryland through policy solutions that work for people and the planet.

View of the Ocean City Maryland skyline. The buildings line the skyline in the distance across an open body of water. Green marshes cut by meandering channels of water are in the foreground.
Front Lines of Climate Change View of Ocean City across the salt marshes in Isle of Wight, Maryland. © Matt Kane / TNC
Maryland state house in Annapolis. On the left three stone columns support a plinth inscribed with the words Under Law. The domed cupola of the main statehouse building rises in the background.
State House Change is here in Maryland. © Rachael Voorhees / Flickr Creative Commons

Wednesday, January 10, marked the start of the 2024 Maryland General Assembly and the state’s 446th state legislative session. During this 90-day session, The Nature Conservancy will be working to advance legislation that will prepare Maryland to tackle current and future environmental challenges through policy solutions that work for people and the planet. Throughout the 2024 Maryland legislative session—and beyond!—TNC's Maryland/DC Government Relations team will be advocating for forward-thinking policies on issues that include climate change mitigation, community-led resilience and investments in nature.

Reduce Emissions Economy-Wide

During previous legislative sessions, Maryland set its sights on reducing carbon emissions by 60% of 2006 levels by 2031 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2045. Now it’s time to put the pieces into motion to make these goals our state’s reality.

TNC continues to partner with Maryland’s agencies, the legislature, community members and environmental organizations to implement policy recommendations that will reduce emissions economy-wide. We are committed to helping Maryland achieve our state climate goals and to securing a clean energy future.

  • As we prepare for Maryland’s transition to a clean-energy economy, it is vital to implement policies that foster our state’s ambitious renewable energy goals. The Climate Pollution Reduction Plan published at the end of 2023 by the Maryland Department of Environment calls for a Clean Power Standard. This new standard requires 100% of the electricity consumed in Maryland to be generated by clean and renewable sources of energy by 2035.

    In the 2024 legislative session, TNC will support that assist in this transition. This will include supporting policies that will help Marylanders drastically reduce their fossil fuel consumption in an equitable manner. We are also advocating for the transition to renewable sources while securing the electric grid’s reliability and sustainability. Maryland is currently falling behind in meeting our solar energy targets. TNC is supporting our partner environmental organizations in an effort to streamline solar deployment permitting processes for new solar projects and enhancing incentives for solar development.

    TNC is working with our partners to strengthen residential and commercial building standards and update energy-efficiency programs. This will prepare us for converting to electric buildings, which will save consumers money when switching to electric appliances or when improving in-home energy efficiency. Promoting cleaner, more efficient and smart-investment power sources to fuel buildings, including our homes, will be important in reaching emissions-reductions energy goals.

    TNC will also be looking to address the transportation and mobility needs of Marylanders through a collective, sustainable and comprehensive approach. By including both on- and off-road strategies, we are looking to support policies that will reduce the amount of energy needed for different modes of transportation in our state. 

  • During the 2024 Maryland legislative session, TNC is advocating for policies that will strengthen our state’s building and energy codes to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for electric conversion. We are also working with our non-governmental organization partners to reform Maryland’s EmPOWER program in order to set clear emissions reduction goals, enable incentives for switching to electric heating and appliances and enact consumer guardrails that direct utilities to deliver savings to ratepayers through in-home improvements.

  • TNC aims to accelerate Maryland’s transition to zero-emission vehicles and improve access to zero-emission vehicles and vehicle charging stations. Both battery-powered and plug-in hybrid vehicle registrations in Maryland have been increasing; however, the current rate is not nearly fast enough to meet our transportation emissions reduction goals. Transportation is the largest source of emissions in our state and our region. We need to reduce the amount of vehicle miles traveled and the number of gas-powered vehicles on the road.

    TNC is advocating for a transportation electrification pathway that includes: (1) offering purchasing incentives for new and used electric vehicles, particularly focusing on access for limited-income buyers; (2) providing support for converting commercial vehicle fleets to electric; and (3) engaging with vehicle dealerships to share information and resources.

Transportation Electrification Pathway

Build a Community-Led Vision for Resilience

Maryland has a rich and vibrant coastline linked to the lives and livelihoods of its residents. TNC’s mission in our climate adaptation and coastal resilience work is to preserve healthy habitats and communities across our state’s changing coastal landscape. As climate change impacts become more severe and frequent, Maryland’s communities and natural resources will face—and are already facing—challenges, especially tied to coastal flooding.

  • Our climate adaptation work in Maryland protects water quality and improves climate resilience at a variety of critical intervention points throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This includes capturing stormwater in cities, working with farmers to reduce nutrient runoff, protecting and restoring critical habitats—like wetlands and oyster reefs—and building resilience in coastal communities.

    During the 2024 Maryland Legislative Session, TNC’s climate adaptation staff will meet with legislators to share policy priorities for improving access to climate adaptation funding resources, addressing equity and environmental justice needs as articulated by coastal communities, and incorporating long-term climate impacts in the state’s planning efforts for future investments. Sustainable and lasting funding sources for flood mitigation is a top priority for coastal cities in Maryland, and TNC is working on multiple fronts to advance flood mitigation priorities.

    Legislation put forth this session takes aim at improving impaired watersheds across Maryland. TNC is collaborating with our environmental partners to establish a pilot program to identify impaired watersheds across our state and conduct a comprehensive planning and permitting process to improve water quality on an expedited timeline.  The program’s goal is to rapidly remove selected watersheds from the impaired waterways list, thereby improving water quality for humans and habitats across our state.

  • TNC is investing our resources in deep listening and learning with coastal community partners. Environmental justice and equity are essential for allocating climate adaptation resources, but we have a long way to go for fully incorporating equity-based criteria across Maryland’s state grant programs. Accessible and equitably distributed resources must be prioritized to meet the urgent and unique needs of communities facing the first and most extreme climate change impacts. 

    Historic Justice40 funding opportunities are flowing from federal programs to state programs. TNC is working with community-led organizations, environmental justice leaders, state and local government officials, and national non-governmental organization partners supporting equitable access to funding for adaptation resources to take full advantage of this initiative.

A great blue heron stands in water during a sunset.
Great Blue Heron A great blue heron hunts for fish on the Chesapeake Bay. © Matt Kane / The Nature Conservancy

Identifying priority areas for Living Shorelines will allow Maryland to increase resilience for coastal communities.

Invest in Nature

Investing in nature brings strong returns for Maryland’s natural resources, economy and communities. TNC is focused on supporting programs and investments that ensure economic and environmental benefits are enhanced today and made sustainable for tomorrow. Strong investments in nature support policies with direct returns to our communities and will prepare us to fight the longer-term climate change impacts. 

  • TNC continues to support dedicated, full funding to foundational environmental programs across the state. Programs like The Chesapeake Bay Trust, Program Open Space and Tree Solutions Now are vital to maintaining natural places’ health and well-being in Maryland. In previous years, funding originally meant for these programs has been redirected elsewhere in the state budget. Over time, raiding these accounts leads to underinvestment in conservation outcomes, which decreases these programs’ impacts. The programs provide essential environmental and conservation services. We look forward to working with Maryland’s General Assembly and the governor to ensure these programs receive the strongest funding levels possible.

  • TNC supports fully funding Maryland’s agencies so that staff capacity is realized and programs are equipped to accomplish their outcomes. Maryland has a lot of work ahead to continue enacting our state’s ambitious policies like the Climate Solutions Now Act. The state also needs to be able to act quickly to seize opportunities for federal investments available through the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act. Capable and well-resourced agencies are essential to setting Maryland on a path for success.

A large wooden sign featuring a painted bee and with the words Honey Bees stands in front of a small urban garden.
Community Garden The Fillbert Street Community Garden provides a green space in South Baltimore's urban and industrial landscape. © Eli Pousson / Baltimore Heritage