Governor Whitmer Announces MI Healthy Climate Plan to Reduce State Carbon Emissions by 2050

A windy day in Traverse City, Thursday, but an appropriate day for Governor Gretchen Whitmer to announce the MI Healthy Climate Plan, underneath a Vesta wind turbine.

The 30- year strategic plan lays out steps every Michigander can take to reduce the state’s carbon emissions by 2050. The plan is lead by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. Parts of the plan, looking ahead to the next two decades, are still a work-in-progress.

It’s a lofty goal, but Governor Whitmer says she’s a “climate optimist” and all 10 million people in the state will get the job done.

“This plan is aggressive, and it is informed,” Whitmer says. “It is really about making sure that our economy grows but in a way that is responsible and sustainable.” Governor Whitmer

Whitmer’s plan to tackle climate change includes increasing dependence on renewable energy. By 2035, Michigan will have committed to ending its use of coal-fired power. Five years before that, it will adopt a renewable energy standard of 50%.

In just three years, state-owned facilities will be run on 100% in-state renewable energy. There is also an effort to deploy solar across the state and help local governments site renewable energy systems.

Also within the first decade, the plan also calls for enough charging stations to support 2 million electric vehicles. Earlier this year, in her State of the State address, Governor Whitmer introduced a plan to lower the cost of electric vehicles. There will also be incentive to purchase one.

And buildings and homes are also part of the plan to go reach carbon neutrality. The 2021 Model Energy Code will be adopted and include provisions to support electric vehicle charging, energy storage options, renewable energy sources and building for decarbonization. There will also be state investments into Michigan Saves – a program to help families and small businesses invest in clean energy, from weatherization to renewables.

“We can prioritize that in the budget. We can create legislation that rewards businesses or companies or families that are engaged in doing their part,” says Whitmer. “I think there are going to be additional things that we can and need to explore.”

An ambitious goal presents challenges such as companies that produce chemicals, iron, steel, food and cement. Some companies have already promised to go carbon neutral from within. Consumers Energy will be leaning on renewables like wind and solar, to get away from coal by 2025. There’s opportunity in Michigan’s 11.8 million acres of agricultural land to sequester carbon created by livestock or tilling. Cover crop and no-till conservation practices can increase soil carbon stock and reduce soli erosion and chemical runoff.

Steps to reduce carbon emission coincides with a mission to preserve our natural resources. In the MI Healthy Climate Plan, there is a promise to implement protections of 30% of the state’s land and water by 2030.

$450 million has been invested into state parks and a plan is in place to build a state park in Genesee County- making 83 state parks in Michigan’s 83 counties.

The plan calls for more than the existing 113,000 clean energy jobs that exist currently. The projected increase in jobs in this industry is two percent annually by 2028.

The plan is a work in progress, but work, some leaders say, should have started years ago.

Frank Ettawageshik“Our job is to let those words, let them lift off the page,” says Association of American Indian Affairs President Frank Ettawageshik. “Let that action become actions and accomplishments because that’s our job. That’s what we do as individuals and organizations.”

Ettwageshik delivered the closing speech at the Paris Agreement – a treaty on international climate change- signed in 2015. National determined contributions were made from each country to commit to reducing carbon emissions.

Ettawageshik says indigenous nations also made their own determined contributions, but each person needs to do the same for the planet.

To read more on the MI Healthy Climate Plan, visit here.