Legislature may set new climate standard for Minnesota

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Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesota is an odd-weather state. Despite a reputation that’s been long-established by movies and TV, we’re not just a winter wonderland: we get wet springs, stormy summers, balmy Octobers, and everything in between. But perhaps we can all agree that it’s not normal for the Fahrenheit to hit the high 80s in mid-April.

Minnesota is a state where the weather is getting odder due to the advance of climate change, which is warming us faster than most parts of the U.S. It’s given many of us weather whiplash this month, but also contributed to a historically wet winter that ravaged our roads. If the world doesn’t reverse course on greenhouse gas emissions, we can expect even less predictability and harsh consequences on our communities, our farmland, and our natural spaces.

We can’t determine how other states and countries reduce their emissions, but Minnesota can lead the way on developing the technology, practices, and policies that get it done. We have the resources to do it: a powerhouse scientific community, a diverse and thriving economy, ample natural resources, and vast community knowledge. But in order to put them to work on climate action, we need the law to make it crystal clear that getting to zero emissions at the necessary speed is the goal.

Right now, our state is giving a “Minnesota goodbye” to fossil fuels, slowly reducing our reliance on coal and petroleum in some areas but letting it linger or expand in others, resulting in a too-slow decline in emissions. Electricity, for example, has gotten much cleaner in the past decade, while homes and industries have gotten more polluting. State agencies have set up helpful targets for emissions cuts, like those the Minnesota Climate Action Framework, but they don’t yet have a clear roadmap or the force of law, and could be reversed by a future governor.

That’s why MEP strongly supports the Next Generation Climate Act, a bill that is advancing through the Legislature this session and has a strong – but far from certain – chance of passing. 

Currently, the once-groundbreaking Next Generation Energy Act has required Minnesota to cut emissions by 80% – relative to 2005 levels – by 2050. The new bill would align Minnesota’s greenhouse emissions targets with those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050, the near-unanimous consensus level position supported by scientists worldwide. It would put the force of law behind efforts to reduce our most stubborn sources of carbon, like transportation and agriculture.

The Next Generation Energy Act, sponsored by House Climate Committee Chair Patty Acomb (DFL-Minnetonka) is currently included in the massive House Environment, Natural Resources, Climate, and Energy Finance and Policy bill that will be heard on the House floor on Monday, April 17th. This package that includes many energy-related provisions will be further altered and negotiated in the remaining few weeks of the session. The Next Generation Energy Act is not, however, currently included in the Senate’s Omnibus bill. As the two major bills are passed and negotiated in conference committee, we can’t predict with certainty that the net-zero target will pass.

The most surefire way to pass this bill into law will be for the Senate to add it into their Omnibus bill, and that’s why MEP is focusing our efforts on asking Senators to support it. Both houses already made history earlier this session by passing Minnesota’s 100% carbon-free electricity standard. By going a step further and targeting all of our emissions – not just the low-hanging fruit – Minnesota can focus our full efforts on solving this crisis and saving our seasons for generations to come.

How you can help: Contact your Legislators and ask them to support the Next Generation Climate Act’s inclusion in the final Omnibus budget bills.

For previous columns, visit mepartnership.org/category/blog/. If you would like to reblog or republish this column, you may do so for free – simply contact the author at matthew@mepartnership.org.

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