BY ULLA NILSEN AND MN350
Minnesota is now on track to provide 100% clean electricity by 2040, but are we using it? You have probably heard of the Inflation Reduction Act (or IRA), the biggest investment the United States has ever made toward transitioning to a clean energy future. While this is a huge step forward, the IRA alone is not enough to save us. In order to meet climate goals and ensure that the benefits of the clean energy transition fall equally to everyone, local governments need to step up.
As luck would have it, Minneapolis is in the process of updating its 10-year climate action plan. Teams of people from every ward across Minneapolis have been working with their council members and the mayor to advocate for the People’s Climate & Equity Plan for Minneapolis — a local effort headed up by a coalition of racial, environmental and economic justice organizations that would ensure that the clean energy revolution is accessible to all residents, regardless of income, race or zip code.
So, what is the People’s Climate & Equity Plan? Here are its goals:
1. 100% Clean energy and efficiency in all Minneapolis buildings by 2030.
Some IRA programs are targeted specifically to benefit low and moderate-income families, but most spending is in the form of tax incentives that largely benefit moderate- and high-income households. Local investment through the People’s Climate & Equity Plan will help ensure that families at all income levels have access to healthy, clean-energy homes and the ability to build wealth through community ownership of clean energy projects.
Bonus: Citywide coordination will also enable Minneapolis to tap into new renewable resources such as networked geothermal that would be accessible only when shared across a neighborhood.
2. Build community wealth and reduce the racial wealth gap.
The IRA provides significant business opportunities for BIPOC- and worker-owned cooperatives, but no direct investments. The People’s Climate & Equity Plan will develop pathways for people from marginalized communities to move into union apprenticeships and remove barriers to accessing the higher-paying union jobs created by the IRA.
“As the green economy accelerates, we must create intentional and equitable pathways for communities of color to access union careers in the energy and construction sectors. Investing in clean energy creates enormous opportunities to address health and wealth disparities. Our communities cannot be left behind.” — Coalition member Emilia Gonzalez-Avalos, Executive Director of Unidos MN
3. Safe, healthy and climate-resilient neighborhoods connected by accessible, carbon-free transportation.
The IRA provides funding for clean commercial vehicles, pollution reduction along major transportation corridors, and tree planting. Cities will need to partner with disadvantaged communities to secure this funding and that means investing in staff capacity — which is part of the People’s Climate & Equity plan.
The IRA also provides tax credits for clean vehicles. While this is good, it’s simply not accessible to everyone. The People’s Climate & Equity Plan can help Minneapolis reduce our reliance on cars — which is necessary for reducing emissions overall.
4. Create a robust dedicated funding stream to make bold climate justice policy a reality.
By supporting the transition to clean energy, the People’s Climate & Equity Plan provides economic benefits for everyone.
Saving city governments money
As the impacts of human-caused climate change continue to escalate here and around the world, state and local governments bear the majority of the infrastructure costs to recover from current or mitigate future disasters. We must invest in clean energy systems now to prevent worsening losses and damage to roads, trees and our drinking water.
Saving money for residents and businesses
Renewables are now cheaper than coal and gas — and prices are continuing to fall. Transitioning to clean electricity will lower and stabilize energy prices for every Minneapolis household. This helps to relieve the burden on low-income households which currently pay a higher percentage of their income on energy bills. It also allows businesses of all sizes to accurately plan for the future.
Generating wealth for local economies
Electrifying everything from buildings to buses will not only create jobs for communities of color, it will make Minneapolis a more desirable place to live. Businesses compete for talented workers and sustainability is one of the top draws. Healthy zero-energy buildings and robust clean transportation infrastructure will make Minneapolis a destination for businesses and talented workers.
As the city of Minneapolis updates its climate action plan this year, we have an opportunity to set bold climate justice goals and establish the means to meet them. We can inspire action across the country. We know that federal policy follows local initiatives. Let’s help Minneapolis lead the nation in climate justice.
To learn more and get involved with passing the People’s Climate & Equity Plan for Minneapolis go to mn350.org/peoples-climate-and-equity-plan/.
About MN350: MN350 is a statewide climate advocacy group with 30,000 supporters. We work to make Minnesota a national leader in a just transition to a clean energy economy. MN350 Action is its political and advocacy arm.