Climate change is a hot topic for the State

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Everywhere you turn these days the topic of climate change is inescapable. Whether it’s Diesel jeans touting its denim in a cheeky, albeit actually very unfunny, advertising campaign, the seemingly daily announcements of businesses touting their “greenness” — Home Depot has an “eco options” campaign, Best Buy sells energy efficient appliances while Wal-Mart touts its Live Better program — and pop-culture magazines sport cover stories about localized farming, politicians stumping for the environment and Leonadro DiCaprio‘s role as Hollywood’s leading green man. All this points to the public’s slow-but-sure recognition that energy consumption, and it’s dark side, has come of age. So it should be little surprise that the government, at least on the local level, is stepping up to the plate too.
If attendance at the inaugural Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG) is any indication, it appears that support for addressing the issue is not only understood, but embraced as well.
Filling a ballroom at the St. Paul Hotel, the MCCAG delivered its agenda in grand style. With a large contingent of members and an audience from the MPCA, the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce, among others, the room was filled to near capacity.
Initiated as part of Governor Pawlenty’s Next Generation Energy Initiative, which aims to develop a strategic plan (formally called the Minnesota Mitigation Action Plan, also referred to as the Minnesota Climate Change Action Plan) to reduce the state’s emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Tapping a wide array of the state’s citizens as part of the MCCAG and organizing Technical Work Groups (TWGs), the group works in tandem with the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS). (More acronyms, formalized group titles and planning titles are sure to ensue.)
While most of the meeting was a generalized overview of responsibilities (show up for meetings, please), formalities (no backsliding or personalized objectives, please), and a timeline review (the Climate Action Plan is due February 1, 2008), meetings of the group will be split between public gatherings and telephony conferences with the TWGs.
In essence, the MCCAG is to develop a plan that will be delivered to Pawlenty that addresses the following:

  • Complete a complete inventory and forecast of GHG emissions in the state from 1990-2020;
  • Create specific policy recommendations, accompanied with analyses, to reduce GHG emissions, enhance energy policy and address economic policy in the state by 2020 and beyond;
  • Make recommendations for a set of GHG statewide reduction goals, targets and implementation of such actions.

Pawlenty made a brief appearance at the meeting, enthusiastically greeting everyone and seeming somewhat awed by the sheer number of attendees. (Odd, considering that he is the one who appointed the MCCAG members.) One issue that he keeps stumping on is the economic viability that any GHG reduction policy recommendation must carry. Skeptics could see this as a preemptive point of debate for proposed reconfigurations of existing high-polluting industries while cynics may see this as business-as-usual, citing the roles the big oil lobbyists have in stymieing federal legislation.
That said, with an energy bill moving its way through the Senate, the public embrace of making climate change a platform issue and the executive branch coming under more and more scrutiny for its environmental policies, this could be an interesting, but bumpy, ride to a new energy era for the state.
The MCCAG’s next meeting is schedule for June 14. Meetings are open to the public.

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