GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A group of environmental organizations is calling on state officials to expand the MI Healthy Climate Plan aimed at making Michigan carbon-neutral by 2050.
In a news conference Friday, representatives from several organizations called the plan a “good start,” but said more needs to be done to speed up our progress.
“The draft (of the) MI Healthy Climate plan is a good start in positioning Michigan to be a leader in the advanced energy sector,” Laura Sherman, president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, said. “While the recommendations outlined in the draft plan will support Michigan’s clean economy goals, there is more our state must do to build upon the success of the advanced energy industry.”
The organizations made several recommendations, most accelerating the state’s goals, like pushing energy companies to be coal-free by 2030. But others include more investments in non-car infrastructure and granting more personal access to renewable energy instead of funneling it through the state’s utility companies.
“Climate change and action on climate change, there’s more support for that across political spectrums than there ever has been before. It continues to grow,” said Nick Dodge of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “We think that’s because people are seeing the impact of climate change, right here and now. We saw over the summer with extreme weather events that caused literal highways to flood in southeast Michigan. So, people have seen the impacts and they are demanding action.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer committed Michigan to its big goal when she took office in 2020, forming the Council on Climate Solutions within the state’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. The plan is wide-ranging but ultimately leads to one major goal: erasing Michigan’s carbon footprint by 2050. The strategy is broken into five segments: energy production, transportation, building upgrades, energy-intensive industries and our natural working lands.
One of the biggest factors is moving Michigan’s energy sources away from fossil fuels and nuclear energy to clean, renewable sources, like solar, wind and hydroelectric. Consumers Energy and DTE Energy have announced plans to speed up their timelines to shut down their coal-powered plants, with Consumers aimed at being coal-free by 2025.
Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their latest report on the damage being done worldwide by the warming climate. It says the threat is building fast and action needs to be taken immediately. Kate Madigan, the executive director of the Michigan Climate Action Network, echoed that sentiment.
“We don’t have time to wait,” Madigan said. “Any further delay and we will miss the brief window we have to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”
Dodge says the threat demands bold, progressive action.
“Good public policy is really forward-looking; it’s looking into the future,” Dodge said. “We’ve seen now that we’ve kind of ended up in a high-cost situation right now with energy costs due to an over-reliance on fossil fuels. So what we’re really hoping to see is a vision where we make these investments right now and then down the road they are going to pay off in dividends with more affordable, more reliable and homegrown clean energy that’s not dependent on fossil fuel sources in a global market that has shown it can be extremely volatile.”
Since the draft of the MI Healthy Climate plan was published in January, EGLE has held two listening sessions and have fielded input from hundreds of people, including residents, academic experts and local government officials. The public input period ends Monday. EGLE is expected to issue a finalized plan to the governor’s office next month.