Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
On September 16, Governor Tim Walz’s administration released Minnesota’s Climate Action Framework, an outline for for government agencies, companies, and communities to ensure our state does its part to fight climate change. It covers six major goal areas to target for cutting emissions and improving public health: clean transportation, natural and working lands, resilient communities, clean energy and efficient buildings, healthy lives and communities, and a clean economy.
The Framework identifies needs and actions, it is not a complete plan or policy in and of itself. But it’s a welcome sign that our state government is treating the climate crisis with the necessary gravity. As one of the fastest-warming states and an agricultural and industrial powerhouse, Minnesota has a lot to gain from helping to solve climate change and a lot to lose from failuring to do so.
This Framework, spearheaded by the Governor’s Climate Subcabinet, relied on hundreds of hours of meetings and comments from thousands of Minnesotans on ways to reduce emissions. MEP members and staff were among those consulted, with MEP Executive Director Steve Morse serving on an advisory committee for the natural and working lands policy area.
As the Climate Subcabinet researched and wrote the plan, our coalition identified several potential issues with the process and the outcomes and wrote to the Walz Administration to express our concerns. We also asked our subscribers to weigh in on the Framework’s issue areas via surveys, and we appreciate the many who did so.
Our first concern was ensuring that the facilitators conducted an open, inclusive, and impartial process based on science and input from Minnesota’s frontline communities who are most impacted by climate change and environmental pollution. While no process is perfect, we appreciate that the Walz Administration engaged many organizations based in Minnesota’s communities of color and the 11 tribal nations within Minnesota.
Another primary issue we raised to the Walz Administration involved the Framework’s goalposts. Ambiguity or too little ambition wouldn’t get us where we need to go to reduce emissions. We argued that that Frameworkn had to address the internationally-recognized IPCC climate goals, which were initially not identified as the guiding star for the document. In our view, this was a no-brainer – if the state of Louisiana could focus on the IPCC goals in their plan, Minnesota had no excuse. We’re happy to see that, the final document does prominently reference these goals: achieving a 50% reduction in emissions (compared with 2005) by 2030, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Our next request was for the framework to identify both immediate and long-term steps to reduce Minnesota’s emissions. We’re glad to see that this plan lays out numerous actions that the state, communities, private entities, and individuals can take in the next months, years and decades.
In some areas, we would like to see more specific measures. In the clean fuels section under transportation, for example, the framework is ambiguous about what advanced clean fuels may include. Ethanol, for example, is not a climate-friendly fuel, despite longtime state support for it as an alternative or supplement to gasoline. We hope the state will clarify these ambiguities going forward and rely on sound science to make its decisions.
We also asked the Subcabinet to commit to the one thing needed for all these worthy goals and actions: accountability. Minnesota has made and missed climate and environmental goals before due to a lack of ambition or investment. Our state has taken actions, like approving the Line 3 pipeline, that undercut our stated values. We need to ensure that there is a clear pathway and mechanisms to enforce our goals and keep us on track. While we recognize that the Framework is only one step, we hope to see the Walz Administration commit to action behind this and call for the Legislature to do likewise.
Every great undertaking starts with a plan – or a blueprint, as we titled our 2022 Briefing Book – and we’re encouraged by the Walz Administration’s Framework as a broad foundation for action. The good news is: the goals in the Framework are achievable.
We have the technology to generate reliable, clean power – much more cheaply now, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. We have tested and are continuously-improving methods to transport people and goods without choking our communities with emissions. We have cutting-edge agriculture solutions to make Minnesota’s farmland an ally in the fight against climate change and pollution. Now it’s up to the state and to all of us who live here to take bold action to protect our common home and people.
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