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New Minnesota greenhouse gas reduction goals could be on the way

In 2007, Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act was signed into law. Last month, the state committed to getting its electricity from exclusively carbon-free energy sources by 2040. Now Rep. Patty Acomb (DFL-Minnetonka) believes it’s time for a Next Generation Climate Act.

She’s the sponsor of HF1973, which would amend the state greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals by establishing a 50% reduction target (on a 2005 base) by 2030 and a net zero target by 2050.

The bill also stipulates that reduction efforts are to avoid disproportionately adverse impacts on communities that have been overexposed to pollution, and calls for annual review and recommended changes from the Pollution Control Agency.

The House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee approved the bill Tuesday and re-referred it to the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee by a split-voice vote.

Speaking in support of the bill was Heidi Roop, assistant professor of climate science at the University of Minnesota.

“HF1973 aligns the state with the most current science produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which outlines and provides alternative global greenhouse gas emission reductions pathways that get us to these goals,” Roop said.

He continued: “All of these pathways share certain features, including steep near-term emissions and energy demand reductions, net zero by 2050, decarbonization of electricity and other fuels, deep reductions in agricultural emissions, and some form of carbon dioxide removal through carbon storage on land or sequestration in geologic reservoirs.”

“The leading scientists of the world have made it clear that we face nothing less than a code red for humanity if we don’t act,” said Ellen Anderson, climate program director at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “What’s really different in 2023 compared to 2007 is that we are all now experiencing the impacts of climate change. Think about winter rain, later summers, extreme droughts. … Minnesotans are more concerned about global warming than ever, and they want action taken by their leaders.”

Although the bill’s provisions were originally estimated to reduce the General Fund by $140,000 in the 2024-25 biennium, Frank Kohlasch, the Pollution Control Agency’s assistant commissioner for air and climate policy, said that the fiscal note would be amended to show no fiscal impact.

Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent) asked if it was possible to buy renewable energy certificates to meet the goal or if the bill would ban the use of coal. Acomb said no, that it sets goals but not specific policies.

“I much prefer carrots to sticks,” Acomb said. “And I think we have opportunities to incentivize the behavior we want to see.”

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