By Joram Kluge
Only three days after President Obama announced his action plan for addressing climate change, the Minneapolis City Council unveiled their own Climate Action Plan. The Minneapolis plan outlines strategies that will help the city achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% in 2015 and to reach a 30% reduction by 2025 — in line with what scientists think is necessary to address climate disruption.
The plan is the result of successful collaboration between members of the entire community, including representatives from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Community environmental justice advocates formed a working group to address concerns about equity and health in the climate action plan. Following a comprehensive approach, the plan addresses a variety of issues, including energy efficiency, transportation, waste cycles and environmental justice.
In order to reach its goals, Minneapolis is pledging to reduce energy use by 17%, while doubling the use of local renewable energy. Through water and energy efficiency incentives for commercial, residential and public buildings, and by cooperating with utility providers, Minneapolis will work to achieve this goal.
Another major step in reducing greenhouse gases is the call for a 30 mile network of protected bikeways to reduce vehicle miles travelled. This will make bicycling a viable, accessible and safe option for everyone who would like to bike more. Not only is bicycling a healthy, and often times the quickest way to make short trips, it also is emissions free. In order to include disadvantaged communities, the plan will ensure this new bicycling infrastructure will serve all neighborhoods.
By keeping waste generation in a flat, increasing recycling, and pushing for a 15% composting rate, Minneapolis will reduce its waste stream. The Climate Action Plan proposes to expand accepted types of recyclable materials, to implement financial incentives and to conduct culturally appropriate, multilingual educational campaigns.
In implementing the strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the plan commits to advance equity in infrastructure and environmental improvements by looking to address disparities, invest in underinvested communities and work with neighborhood organizations in multiple languages to reach all residents. In addition, Minneapolis is prioritizing solutions that have other important benefits. For instance, reducing vehicle miles travelled and electricity generated by coal will also reduce soot pollution, which contributes to asthma attacks and other respiratory and heart illnesses. These strategies help address environmental justice, and were part of the recommendations from the environmental justice working group.
Finally, by encouraging sustainable and equitable growth, Minneapolis will attract new residents, create new jobs and opportunities across the city. By offering incentives for local and renewable energy, as supported by Minnesota’s new solar energy standard, the city will create thousands of new clean energy jobs.
Joram Kluge is a Clean Energy Intern for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.