Environmental advocates said they are encouraged by Michigan’s new climate action plan but also want to see faster action to decarbonize the state’s economy.
State environment regulators on Friday released the draft MI Healthy Climate Plan, meant to outline how Michigan can meet Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s goal to make the state carbon neutral by 2050. Environmental advocacy group officials reviewed the draft plan and agreed it’s a robust step toward climate action in Michigan, though they spoke in chorus to press for even stronger measures.
The draft plan includes goals for state operations, transportation, and business targets and aims to balance the wrongly tipped scales of environmental injustice by directing funds toward communities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Overarching goals of the plan are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across Michigan’s economy by 28 percent by 2025, 52 percent by 2030, and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. A renewable energy standard of 50 percent by 2030 is part of the plan, along with burning coal for energy phased out by 2035.
Environmentalists across the state think Michiganders can do even better.
Kate Madigan, executive director of the Michigan Climate Action Network, said the draft climate plan is a strong proposal sprung from an ambitious goal the governor set with her carbon neutrality directive. She said certain goals may need to ramp up even faster than planned to reach a stable climate future, though.
“There’s been modeling done to get to the carbon neutral goal by 2050. We know that we have to move really fast in a lot, in transportation, and we know some of the benchmarks that need to be met,” Madigan said.
“So, like in the power supply of 50 percent renewable energy standard by 2030 – it’s very ambitious because of where we’re at right now with our electricity in Michigan. But, you know, we need to be moving a little bit faster than that if we’re going to cut our emissions fast enough to be on track for carbon neutral by 2050,” she said.
Those sentiments were shared by other nonprofit environment group officials. They agreed the plan is a critical or even monumental step, but even more must be done.
Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer for nonprofit Michigan Environmental Council, served as a co-chairperson for the Council on Climate Solutions, which was created by the governor’s 2020 executive order that set the carbon neutrality goal. The council advised state regulators on goals for the climate roadmap.
Jameson commended the state for developing a plan, but said bolder action remains needed.
“Michigan is already experiencing the devastating effects of our changing climate, from flooding to power outages, crop failures to failing infrastructure,” she said. “We know the next decade will be decisive in our effort to avoid even worse impacts.”
Tim Minotas, legislative and political coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter, said the draft plan is a monumental step for the state in its efforts to reduce emissions and act on climate.
“Climate change is affecting all corners of Michigan today, and this plan includes many crucial pieces that will set Michigan on its path to achieve its goals. However, Michigan can and must go further around issues such as building electrification and natural gas efficiency measures in order to truly meet the moment,” he said.
More goals in the draft climate plan include powering all state buildings with renewable energy and placing solar energy panels or arrays on state lands and facilities. Officials also list tripling Michigan’s recycling rate to 45 percent on the climate checklist.
Michigan businesses are asked under the draft climate plant to aim for energy waste reduction targets for both electricity and natural gas use. Energy efficient building codes and expanded electric vehicle charging infrastructure are included goals, as well as research into new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The draft climate plan calls on the state to support job-training efforts, including adding clean energy skill training to existing programs.
The state also should continue funding improvements to Michigan’s housing stock, according to the draft plan. Specifically, homes ineligible for federal weatherization assistance are expected to be brought up to better standards, according to the draft climate plan.
The state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy will accept written public comments on the draft plan through 5 p.m. EST on Monday, Feb. 14, and will host two online listening sessions on Jan. 26 and Feb. 8 to take verbal comments.
The 45-page draft plan can be downloaded at www.michigan.gov/climate, where registration for the online listening sessions also will be available.
“Climate impacts are or will affect all Michiganders and we hope for wide input into the plan,” said Hugh McDiarmid Jr., EGLE spokesperson.
He said state regulators are in “listening and learning mode” for the month-long public comment period.
Written comments can be submitted through mail sent to James Clift, Michigan EGLE, Executive Office, P.O. Box 30473, Lansing, Michigan, 48909, or via email sent to [email protected]
An update about comments submitted to the state will be provided to the Council on Feb. 22, and the finalized plan is expected to be delivered to Whitmer by March 14.
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