Whitmer unveils ‘game-changer’ climate plan for carbon neutrality by 2050

Interim clean energy, conservation goals to be met by 2030

By: - April 23, 2022 4:27 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a press conference on renewable energy, April 22, 2021 | Laina G. Stebbins

Standing among a solar array in Traverse City on Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the release of Michigan’s new “healthy climate” plan for the state to eventually achieve 100% economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050.

The MI Healthy Climate Plan has been two years in the making since Whitmer directed its creation in 2020, tasking the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) with its development.

“Michigan has been impacted by climate change, from a polar vortex and historic floods to dam breaks and week-long power outages,” Whitmer said. “The MI Healthy Climate Plan identifies actions we can take to address climate change head-on, lower costs for Michiganders, ensure every Michigan worker has a good-paying, sustainable job, and every family has clean air, water, and a home powered by clean, reliable energy.”

Whitmer said the roadmap to carbon neutrality positions the state to “become the global center of clean energy innovation.” That includes a prioritization of actions from now until 2030 that will lead up to the ultimate carbon neutrality goal 20 years beyond that.

EGLE Director Liesl Clark emphasized that the plan is “uniquely Michigan,” and shaped by diverse input from cities, towns, tribal communities and businesses across the state.

The recommendations are shaped around six main pillars: Environmental justice, cleaning the electric grid, electrifying vehicles and increasing public transit, repairing and decarbonizing homes and businesses, driving clean innovation in industry and protecting Michigan’s land and water.

Key strategies in the report include:

  • Ensuring that at least 40% of state funding for climate-related and water infrastructure initiatives benefit disadvantaged communities.
  • Strengthening workforce development and job training for clean energy jobs.
  • Adopting a renewable energy standard of 50% by 2030, in order to generate 60% of the state’s electricity from renewable resources.
  • Adopting a statewide energy storage target to deploy 1,000 Megawatt (MW) of grid scale storage by 2025, 2,500 MW by 2030 and 4,000 MW by 2040.
  • Building infrastructure to support 2 million electric vehicles on Michigan roads by 2030.
  • Transitioning the state of Michigan’s fleet to 100% zero-emission vehicles.
  • Reducing emissions related to heating Michigan homes and businesses 17% percent by 2030.
  • Tripling the state’s recycling rate to 45% and cutting food loss and waste in half by 2030.
  • Provide incentives and technical assistance necessary to achieve carbon neutrality in the industrial sector by 2050.
  • Protecting 30% of Michigan’s land and water by 2030 to naturally capture greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • Not interfering with treaty rights, treaty resources and tribal cultural resources, while consulting with tribal nations and respecting the exercise of treaty rights during conservation efforts.

EGLE’s Office of Climate and Energy worked alongside the state’s Council on Climate Solutions to develop the solutions.

“We heard from environmental justice, public transit, local food, and climate action advocates; an array of business and labor leaders; academic experts and local government officials; and concerned residents of all political persuasions and walks of life,” Clark said Thursday. “The resulting MI Healthy Climate Plan will be a game-changer for Michigan’s economy and environment. It is a bold plan that a broad cross-section of Michiganders can rally around.”  

The plan’s unveiling was met with praise from members of the Council on Climate Solutions.

Council members include: Co-chair Phil Roos, CEO of Great Lakes GrowthWorks; Frank William Beaver, director of the Natural Resources Department for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians; Steven Holty, Hemlock Semiconductor sustainability leader; Cynthia Williams, global director of sustainability, homologation and compliance at Ford; Derrell Slaughter, Michigan clean energy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); Ron Voglewede, director of sustainability at Whirlpool Corp.; and advisor Jim Harrison, Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) director of renewable energies.

“As someone who has worked in Tribal environmental and natural resource management for nearly thirty years, I am glad to see such a great effort towards climate change issues in our State,” Beaver said.

“Over the years I’ve seen impacts such as the warming of our lakes and streams, the deterioration and failing of our dams, and an increased risk of flooding due to the loss of wetlands. From the fish and wild game across our state to the Mnoomin (wild rice) that grows on our waters, and the lakes and trails that we enjoy, we all love and depend on these natural systems.

“I know that through this plan that we can reduce impacts to these systems now and in the future,” Beaver said.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).

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