In 2015-16 Climate Generation hosted 12 public convenings across the state through our public education project, Climate Minnesota: Local Stories, Community Solutions. In the fall of 2016, building on the climate literacy developed and the strong partnerships cultivated through Climate Minnesota, we revisited four of the convening communities: Duluth, South Metro, Rochester and Mankato. On these return trips, we hosted legislative conversations with local decision-makers.

These conversations included legislators, major party running candidates and local mayors. Held at a local breakfast venue, each conversation began with background on the issue of climate change, including impacts and solutions specific to that community, and highlighted the level of public engagement that took place at the recent Climate Minnesota convening. Utilizing the power of climate stories to create connections and shared understanding among attendees, 2-3 constituents shared their stories and eyewitness accounts at the breakfast. Their stories helped demonstrate how people are seeing and feeling climate change locally.

We found these conversations to be insightful, rich and important for forging a bipartisan consensus around climate change in local communities. During this open conversation, decision-makers shared various opportunities and barriers to addressing climate change.

Senator Senjem, R-Rochester, shared that while he believes there isn’t a shared understanding on the causes of climate change, we can all agree that it is important to conserve our precious resources and avoid wasteful practices. He described his recent experience in Germany as part of the Climate Smart Municipalities delegation as a powerful example of Rochester positioning itself as a clean energy city of the future. Senator Senjem also welcomed any information we could provide him on the science of climate change, so that he could better understand the issue.

Rochester’s Mayor Brede shared the story of his ambitious proclamation at our October 2015 Climate Minnesota Convening, where he called for the city to be 100% clean energy-powered by 2031. In hindsight, Mayor Brede said that he has come to understand that the proclamation was much more powerful than he had initially thought it would be. It has since become a frame of reference for the city as Rochester invests in its new Destination Medical Center, and has led to several partnerships and initiatives on clean energy. In his words, “It was like when JFK announced that we would be the first nation to put a man on the moon. There were many critics, and people scrambled to figure out if we really could do it – and we did! It was a public statement that mobilized us.”