Plenty alarms us about climate change – the news of rapid ice-shelf collapse, a growing list of “hottest years on record” in the past decade, and the prospects for today’s youth and future generations in a warming world. The recent Supreme Court decision to pause implementation of the Clean Power Plan is a frustrating delay for U.S. climate action, but is by no means a cause for panic or sounding the alarm.
There is a bigger picture here. It tells us that the growing movement in favor of clean energy will continue advancing us toward climate solutions and a better future. We applaud Gov. Mark Dayton’s strong leadership on climate change here in Minnesota, and are heartened to see that he recently emphasized the need to keep moving forward: “We shouldn’t need a federal edict to understand how vital it is that we keep doing everything in our collective powers to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency, and advance Minnesota’s clean energy economy.”
When you’re leading an Arctic expedition (like Will) or participating in a cross-country ski race (like Kendra), you quickly learn that the moments of challenge call on us to be our best selves. Right now, in the face of this obstacle, two pivotal questions confront Minnesota: What is our vision for addressing climate change, and are we committed to making it a reality?
100% clean energy by 2050
We envision a goal of zero emissions and 100 percent clean energy in Minnesota by 2050, a goal that echoes the call from the youth who gathered in Paris to demand a strong climate agreement that safeguarded their future.
We know what’s at stake. We’ve seen climate change alter the Arctic as well as our winters here in Minnesota. The recent news of 2015’s record-setting heat is a sobering reminder that climate change is not slowing down. We need to chart a path to a clean-energy future that is faster than the path to climate catastrophe. We don’t have time for pauses or delay.
The good news is, the clean-energy industry is not pausing either. In Minnesota, solar jobs have increased 131 percent since 2013, according to the newly released Solar Jobs Census, and the industry expects another 20 percent increase this year. Wind energy continues to expand as its price falls; Xcel Energy expects long-term contracts for wind to beat the cost of natural gas. Our clean energy future is already arriving, and the path forward looks even brighter – the five-year extension for clean energy tax credits gives the industry an unprecedented signal for growth.
New ‘crops’ for farmers …
The transition to 100 percent clean energy will unleash incredible innovation and collaboration among Minnesotans; in short, it will help us be our best selves. We envision farmers putting up wind turbines and solar panels among their cornfields as new and profitable crops to harvest. We envision businesses, nonprofits and neighborhood organizations coming together to collaborate on community solar gardens and other cooperative energy projects that provide direct benefits to communities. We envision free home energy consultations for low-income residents that help them save money while conserving energy. A clean energy future won’t just avert disaster; it’s the key to unlocking even greater and broader prosperity.
With that in mind, we call on Minnesota’s leaders to continue pushing forward an ambitious agenda that advances clean energy and addresses climate change. We believe the Clean Power Plan stands on a strong legal and moral foundation, and will be upheld in the courts. We should use this policy and others to meet the visionary but necessary goal of a zero-emissions future in our state. The challenge to the Clean Power Plan reminds us of times we’ve skied into a headwind – in these times, we dig deep and move with even more determination toward our goal. It helps to know we’re supported by an incredible community that believes in our common vision.
Will Steger is a polar explorer and founder of Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy. Kendra Roedl is a senior at South High School and a co-chair of Climate Generation’s YEA! MN youth program.
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