What is Minnesota’s Government Doing About Global Warming?

Science Policy Director, Fresh Energy

Given the absence of national action on global warming, U.S. states have been enacting laws and regulations to reduce pollution. And now Minnesota has joined that list of forward-thinking states by enacting a law with some of the strongest global warming reduction goals in the nation.

The Global Warming Mitigation Act

In May 2007, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Next Generation Energy Act, and Governor Pawlenty signed it into law. The main component of this new law is the Global Warming Mitigation Act, which commits the state to developing a climate change action plant for aggressively reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2015, 25% by 2025, and 80% by 2050. These reductions must occur throughout the economy, and would be reductions from 2005 emissions levels. Governor Pawlenty has appointed a 53-member Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group, a stakeholders group of energy companies, industries, small business, farmers, labor representatives, and environmentalists; the law requires this group to submit an economy-wide climate change action plan to the legislature by February 1, 2008. The group will recommend policies that make the largest reductions in emissions at the lowest net cost. Some of the recommendations are expected to save Minnesotans money as they reduce energy waste.

The new law also creates major advances in energy efficiency. The required utility investment in energy savings will triple, and Minnesota’s electricity and natural gas use will be cut by almost 25% by the year 2025. The new efficiency rules will play a significant role in the state’s plan to decrease global warming pollution, while saving consumers money on their energy bills. One of the smartest, cheapest ways to fight global warming is to cut waste and invest in energy efficiency.

This legislation is a strong call to action to slow global warming, but the clock is ticking and time is short. The trend in emissions in Minnesota and much of the world is increasing, rather than decreasing, emissions. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reports that greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota are increasing by about 20% just since 1988.

Minnesota Cities and Towns in Action

More than 600 cities around the nation are not waiting for federal action-they believe it is in their economic interest to begin reducing emissions and urging government at higher levels to take responsibility. Mayors (often with city council endorsement) who sign on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement agree to three provisions:

1. to strive to reduce global warming emissions in their communities

2. to urge the state and federal governments to enact policies to reduce emissions

3. to urge Congress to pass bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation that would establish to national emissions trading system.

As this article went to print, at least 28 Minnesota cities and towns of all sizes, and from across the state, have signed on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

Clean Energy Minnesota for summaries of new Minnesota Laws

Mayors Climate Protection Center

Hell and High Water: Global Warming-the Solution and the Politics-and What We Should Do, Joseph Romm, William Morrow, 2006.

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, Elizabeth Kolbert, Bloomsbury USA, 2006.

Fresh Energy, St. Paul, MN
651-225-0878 o fresh-energy.org

Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group

Minnesota and Global Warming

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