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Gov. Tim Walz releases plan to bring Minnesota to zero net carbon emissions by 2050

Minnesota set its current goals in 2007 when the state adopted the bipartisan Next Generation Energy Act, which called for an 80% reduction in 2005-level emissions by 2050.

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Gov. Tim Walz, legislative leaders and others involved with putting together a new plan to address climate change in Minnesota addressed reporters at Ecolab's Eagan research campus Friday, Sept. 16.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service
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EAGAN, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz has released an ambitious climate plan that aims to significantly curb Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades, with the ultimate goal of making the state have zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

The governor, joined by Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Democratic legislative leaders, and commissioners from multiple state agencies, as well as others who contributed to the plan, unveiled a 69-page framework Friday, Sept. 16, at St. Paul-based Ecolab’s research campus in Eagan. In rolling out the new goals, officials said Minnesota must be ambitious to confront the existential threat of human-caused climate change.

“Like many parents, I wake up every day and worry about the future of the world, that my daughter will grow up in,” Flanagan said. “We must do the work and take bold steps now to protect our future generations from the worst impacts of climate change.”

Minnesota has already seen rising temperatures and extreme weather as a result of climate change, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Daily average minimum temperatures December-February have increased in all regions of the state between 1895 and 2021. The report also pointed to record-breaking floods in Duluth in 2012 and Faribault in 2010 and 2016.

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Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Minnesota set its current goals in 2007 when the state adopted the bipartisan Next Generation Energy Act, which called for an 80% reduction in 2005-level emissions by 2050. The state missed its goal to reduce emissions 15% by 2015, and is not on track to meet it’s 30% goal by 2025, the climate plan said. Emissions have only decreased by 8% since 2005.

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The plan has a three-part framework to tackle the problem:

  • carbon neutrality,
  • preparing Minnesota communities to handle the impacts of a changing climate,
  • and addressing inequality for communities disproportionately affected by climate change.

It also identifies six different areas of goals:

  • Clean transportation,
  • improved land use,
  • creating communities resilient to climate change,
  • promoting clean energy and efficient buildings,
  • protecting health in the face of climate change,
  • and creating a clean, carbon-neutral economy.

Measurable goals include reducing greenhouse emissions from the transportation sector by 80% by 2040, decreasing vehicle miles traveled per capita by 20% by 2050, and having 20% of vehicles on Minnesota roads be electric by 2030. Right now just 1% of vehicles in Minnesota are electric. Improved land use goals include wetland and forest restoration, restoring habitats, and reducing emissions from agriculture. The plan also calls for 100% of Minnesota communities to have climate risk plans that address issues such as flooding.
Pollution control agency commissioner Katrina Kessler said Minnesota’s Climate Change Subcabinet based the new plan on input from thousands of state residents and experts, as well as tribes, local governments and businesses.

To achieve the goals, agencies will continue with measures to curb emissions, including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency moving forward with a new California clean car standard that has attracted criticism from auto dealers and some Republicans. Minnesota tied its regulations to California's, though now California has made its regulations stricter — calling for a ban on vehicles that use gas in 2035. Kessler said the state wouldn't be adopting the newer stricter rules.

Transportation is the No. 1 contributor to the state’s emissions, the report said, and 70% of the emissions come from passenger vehicles. But the plan's creators also hope for legislation, as well as cooperation from business and other groups, to help achieve the climate goals.

“We're hopeful that the next biennial budget includes a big robust climate package to support agencies to support local leaders to provide incentives for communities and businesses to further the work,” Kessler said.

Republican state Sen. Dave Senjem of Rochester also appeared with Walz and others to speak in support of the plan, though any significant legislation will likely face hurdles in the Legislature, where the Republican-controlled Senate is not typically receptive to major climate legislation.

With an election in November and no signs lawmakers will return to the capitol before January, Walz said it was still a good time to roll out the plan, and that election season was a good time to “foster conversations” about the issue. Walz’s GOP challenger Scott Jensen did not mention climate change in an energy policy plan his campaign released in July and has not been vocal on the issue.

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“This issue will transcend whoever is elected, this issue is not going away, it needs to be addressed,” Walz told reporters. “There's folks here who are not from elected office and are still moving in the direction of this. This has been years of work. And this is when it was completed and ready to go.”

RELATED:
With a final climate accord already more than a day overdue, representatives of nearly 200 nations were anxious for an agreement they could bill as a step forward in the fight against climate change.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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