Climate action ramps up at critical time

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Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Last week, the Biden Administration announced the creation of the American Climate Corps, a new training and jobs program for the wide variety of climate action jobs available in the decarbonizing economy.

The new Climate Corps is intended to continue a long tradition of federally supported job-training programs, providing skills and opening up career pathways for more than 20,000 young Americans. It will leverage private sector apprenticeships, civil service opportunities, and programs like AmeriCorps. The careers supported by the program will include clean energy installation, habitat restoration, fire prevention, and many others

In concert with this federal action, Minnesota is among ten states moving forward with its own version of the Climate Corps, building on the massive investments in climate action passed earlier this year by the Legislature.

These programs come at a critical time: many of the most crucial climate-related jobs are in dire need of applicants to help accelerate necessary change. And the dire need for this change is becoming ever more apparent here at home, where Minnesota is likely to record its hottest September on record.

The world watches

On the same day that President Biden announced the American Climate Corps, the United Nations held Climate Ambition Summit 2023 at its headquarters in New York, condemning those nations and companies that have moved too slowly and celebrating those who are demonstrating the way forward.

The summit focused on the fact that a livable future is still within reach. The internationally-recognized 1.5℃ can be achieved through international investment in clean energy. But at the same time, the world’s largest fossil fuel users and producers – especially wealthy nations like the United States – must stop clinging to an economic model that is devastating the planet and especially harming those people and nations who contribute least to climate change.

“The move from fossil fuels to renewables is happening – but we are decades behind,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres. “We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels.”

The path forward

One jobs program for electricians and foresters isn’t going to solve the climate crisis. Nor is one act of Congress. Nor is one spectacular session of the Minnesota Legislature.

But each of these steps builds momentum. And they’re part of an encouraging trend – the International Energy Agency has found that the growth in solar panels – now among the cheapest forms of energy – and electric vehicles is keeping hope for 1.5℃ alive. If we can build on that momentum, we can secure a livable future.

Minnesota will continue to play an outsized role in this effort. During the last Legislative session we were glad to see historic commitments to protect Minnesota’s environment and ensure a just transition to clean energy. We passed a historic clean energy standard and massive clean transportation investments earlier this year. Businesses, agencies, and environmental advocates are working to develop a new clean transportation standard to help draw down the emissions from our largest carbon source. New breakthroughs in farming science can help cut the impact of the nation’s fifth-largest agricultural economy and pave the way for other states and countries to follow. MEP will be working in the next legislative session and beyond to win support for these good ideas.

Amid this hot year, it’s easy to lose hope. But it’s encouraging to remember that the climate crisis is a crisis of choice. If we choose clean energy and a renewed respect for the natural world, we can protect our home for the generations that follow us.

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