An Exceptional Group of People

_DSC0247 (1)We had our first orientation with educators this morning – the first time we have all met in person. It was so great to see relationships blossoming in person after months of connecting via webinars. It was obvious from the start that this is an exceptional group of people. Their passion and commitment were immediately obvious. We were very fortunate to be joined by Rep. Melissa Hortman (D-MN), a 12-year climate change champion representing Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids, and former State Senator Ellen Anderson, who served 18 years in the Senate and now is the Executive Director at the Energy Transition Lab – an initiative of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. Both of these women have been powerhouses for the clean energy transition in the state of Minnesota. We were so grateful to have them help bring our delegation up to speed on climate and energy policy at the state, national and international levels.

Rep. Hortman and Ellen Anderson discussed Minnesota’s history in passing the 2007 Renewable Energy Standard and the Next Generation Energy Act, which set out a 15% renewable energy by 2015 goal. The proposed plan for the U.S. right now is 80% by 2050.

In discussing the history of these international climate negotiations, they shared that, as many people know, the United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. This Paris conference is different because, rather than taking the top down approach like Kyoto, the past year has been spent asking countries what they are willing to commit through Individually Determined National Contributions (INDC’s). So far 186 countries have committed INDCs representing various emissions reduction and clean energy goals.

For its part, the United States has made an INDC of 26-28% by 2025. How will we get there? You can read the full text here, which is an incredibly brief five pages. The plan includes:

  1. The Clean Power Plan announced by Pres. Obama in Aug. 2015, which regulates power plants to reduce carbon emissions 30% by 2030
  2. The 54.5 mpg fuel economy level that Obama negotiated for the auto industry along with financing support in 2009
  3. In the building sector, stronger energy efficiency, building codes and appliance codes
  4. Controlling methane and other greenhouse gas emissions

Many delegates and observers from other countries have been concerned about the prospect of a change in administration in the U.S., which might lead to a failure in meeting our INDC. Despite the appalling actions by Republicans today to undermine a negotiated deal in Paris, this is a posturing tactic and will have no effect on the outcome of the INDC. The Clean Air Act, under which the Clean Power Plan falls, has been in place for 45 years and the U.S. Supreme court ruled last year that the EPA needs to regulate carbon dioxide as a gas that is harmful to humans.

Former Sen. Ellen Anderson recounted that when she proposed the Renewable Energy Standard in 2001, it ultimately took 6 years to pass. The year it passed there were 146 lobbyist swarming the Minnesota capitol to fight the 20% renewable by 2020. Although energy companies were the biggest opponents to this legislation, Ben Fowke, the CEO of Xcel Energy now states, as the largest wind producer in the country, “Wind energy is saving rate payers millions of dollars a year.” Things are beginning to change on the climate action front: clean energy is not only good for our health and our planet, it’s good for our economy.

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