Legislative plans would be a big boost for Minnesota climate action

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Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Earlier this week, the Minnesota House Climate Action Caucus unveiled its 2022 Minnesota Climate Action Plan. This plan consists of a series of proposals that would invest in many different pieces of the climate and energy landscape in Minnesota. Taken together, the plan would be an impressive set of climate actions for Minnesota.

MEP fully supports these proposals, in line with our 2022 Legislative Priorities. While the split Legislature poses a challenge to passing the full package, the state’s budget surplus and evident needs for climate action and energy efficiency mean that there’s no excuse not to move forward.

In the same week as the announcement of the Climate Action Plan, Governor Walz has released a $2.7 capital investment proposal, the 2022 Local Jobs and Projects Plan. This plan, mostly paid for with bonding, includes more than $262 million in environmental projects, as well as investments in areas including transportation and water infrastructure. It’s a major component of the Governor’s budget proposals that are being released in January, and which will be part of the negotiations between the Governor and the two houses.

These proposals would help tackle the largest buckets of emissions that are contributing to climate pollution in Minnesota. While electricity largely continues to get cleaner and cleaner, other categories, especially transportation and land use, are not improving nearly as quickly. All of these sectors must make significant strides to meet the 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said must be achieved worldwide by 2030 to stave off the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Transportation is the largest source of Minnesota’s carbon emissions, and most of these emissions come from light trucks and cars. That’s partly a product of how Minnesota communities were built up to rely on personal vehicles and highways rather than transit and nearby amenities. Fortunately, the Climate Action Plan includes money for at least four bus rapid transit (BRT) lines – among the most accessible and efficient forms of transit in Minnesota – as well as money to expand and electrify transit, improve biking and walking infrastructure, and make it easier to charge electric vehicles throughout the state.

Agriculture and land use is the second major bucket of emissions, and the Climate Action Plan addresses these by focusing on solutions that MEP and our members have advocated for years. The plan invests heavily in regenerative agricultural practices and crops that help build soil and benefit the climate, rather than harming it. These practices can benefit farmers and Minnesota’s economy. Reforestation and prairie restoration are also key pieces to make Minnesota’s land a better carbon sink.

Buildings are another stubborn source of carbon emissions, but one of the most financially efficient ways to cut carbon is…efficiency. A large portion of the plan’s investments focus on weatherization – making buildings like schools, homes, and commercial spaces more livable and less prone to high heating, cooling, and electricity costs. This is a key issue for MEP, and a priority for groups like teachers who have seen schools struggling in heat waves and cold snaps alike. The plan also targets waste and recycling for improvements, aiming to reduce the volume of trash that ends up in landfills and incinerators.

While Minnesota’s electricity mix is getting cleaner as wind and solar spread, more state support is needed to reach fully clean power. The plan supports clean energy on public infrastructure, renewables throughout Greater Minnesota, and innovation on new clean electricity technologies.

These are all projects that will improve Minnesotans’ quality of life significantly. Reduced air and water pollution, lower energy costs, more walkable streets, and greener communities are benefits that all Minnesotans can enjoy.

The challenge will be in passing this package, given the debate on whether to pass tax cuts or invest in the future. But we’ve been here before. Two years ago, MEP and our allies helped advocate for the largest investment in water infrastructure in Minnesota’s history. With climate change more visible than ever and the solutions more promising and certain, this is our moment to get this done.

How you can help: Use our action alert system to contact your lawmakers and Governor Walz and ask them to support the Climate Action Plan. You can use our sample message, or customize it to fit your views.

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