You’re not imagining things; Minnesota is getting warmer and wetter.
Each of our state’s top 10 warmest and wettest years on record have occurred since 1998. We are seeing more frequent and damaging storms, and losing our coldest winter temperatures. And this year as fires far beyond our borders forced many of us indoors during peak Minnesota summer recreation days we were reminded that climate change is everywhere and affects each of us.
From canceled soccer practices to a shorter ice fishing season, climate change is threatening our way of life in the land of 10,000 lakes.
One year ago, Minnesota released a Climate Action Framework. The framework is our state’s plan to cut climate pollution, better prepare for climate change and build a clean economy that works for all Minnesotans. It calls for action in six goal areas: clean transportation, climate-smart natural and working lands, resilient communities, clean energy and efficient buildings, healthy lives and communities, and a clean economy.
The framework’s resilient communities goal focuses on building a future where Minnesota communities are prepared for extreme weather and can thrive in the face of climate challenges from flooding to wildfires.
Today, local governments face the challenge of addressing climate change impacts with tight budgets and aging infrastructure. Extreme weather caused by climate change overwhelms the roads and bridges that connect our communities, the pipes that drain our stormwater and the facilities that treat our wastewater.
A recent Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) survey found that 87% of local governments reported experiencing the impact of weather trends caused by climate change and 42% reported the need for financial support to better prepare for what’s ahead.
As Climate Week 2023 comes to a close, it’s a great time to recognize the big strides Minnesota has made this year. I’m proud that together with partners, the MPCA is making the Climate Action Framework vision a reality.
Since 2021, the MPCA has distributed funding to more than 30 communities across Minnesota to create climate adaptation plans as part of our Climate Resilient Communities Grants program. This year, we’ve expanded that program with $100 million to bring these plans to life. These dollars will be used for infrastructure projects like climate-smart stormwater and sewer system updates, planting more trees and creating more green spaces that manage heavy rains.
We’re also helping communities tap into federal resources. The MPCA recently launched a program to support tribal governments applying for federal climate assistance grants. The MPCA is also working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to distribute millions of dollars approved through the Inflation Reduction Act for projects that will reduce climate pollution coming from our buildings, homes, and cars.
There are many co-benefits to this work. Resilient ecosystems provide habitat, protect water quality and promote the inherent value of wildlife and plants. Thousands of jobs created statewide in fields like construction, emergency preparedness and community planning will grow and sustain Minnesota’s economy. And updating our infrastructure with climate-smart design will reduce future spending on maintenance and repair.
As Minnesota makes progress on addressing greenhouse gas emissions, we should also celebrate the work we’re doing to address the impacts of climate change. Together, we can create a carbon-neutral future with communities that are prepared to continue to thrive.
Katrina Kessler is the commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.