Climate change is among the greatest threats facing our state, and the impacts are now being felt in communities across the globe, including more intense and frequent wildfires, floods, hurricanes, crop damage, and extreme heat events. In 2017, weather and climate-related disasters cost the U.S. an estimated $306 billion in damages. The most vulnerable people, including low-income and marginalized communities, experience greater impacts. The longer we wait to act, the greater and more costly the impacts will become.
Scientific reports released this fall call for serious action. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report found that climate impacts are worse than expected, and to avoid severe consequences, including the loss of hundreds of millions of lives, we must cut global climate emissions in half by 2030. The Fourth National Climate Assessment detailed how the impacts of climate change in the U.S. are growing worse and found that action to significantly cut emissions can substantially reduce these future impacts.
Governor-Elect Whitmer and Vice Governor-Elect Gilcrest
The inaction of past leaders has left today’s leaders with less time and fewer options. Today, action to avert catastrophic impacts of climate change must be a priority. Our state and local governments must develop plans, support policies, and make significant investments to transition our state to clean energy and make our communities more resilient to climate impacts. With the absence of federal leadership on climate, it is critical that we have state leadership to model the solutions needed and call for federal action.
Fortunately, we have the know-how and technology to do what is necessary, and investments in clean energy will bring many benefits and opportunities to our state, including growing the clean energy economy and jobs, improving health and saving lives from reduced pollution, and reducing energy and health care costs. Additionally, the majority of Americans support action on climate change.
The top priorities and actions for Governor Whitmer to respond to the climate crisis and make Michigan a leader in Climate Action
1. Create an Office of Climate Change and speak out about climate.
We applaud Governor-elect Whitmer’s proposal to create an Office of Climate Change and her statements about climate change during the election. Creating this office would show that climate is a priority, and will help change the state’s cultural discourse around climate change. The additional attention and resources focused on climate also can help to advance policies and action, lead and convene multi-agency and stakeholder efforts, and act as resource and point agency for climate work with other states and the region.
2. Announce and begin the work to develop a plan to decarbonize all sectors of Michigan’s economy by 2040, with major reductions by 2030, and in a way that promotes justice and equity.
Building on the Michigan Climate Action Plan, which unfortunately has gone unheeded for eight years, Governor-elect Whitmer should create a stakeholder group led by the Office of Climate Change charged with developing a plan to achieve the following goals:
- 100% transition to non-carbon energy for Michigan’s power generation
- Decarbonize transportation with electric vehicles and public transportation
- Decarbonize all residential and industrial buildings, following the lead of cities like Grand Rapids that are developing a zero-carbon building sector policy roadmap
- Achieve major greenhouse gas reductions in agriculture, food waste, refrigeration, and other areas with significant sources of emissions
- Build a modernized and smart electrical grid so that our state can take advantage of distributed energy, and advanced storage and electric vehicle technologies
- Make Michigan a leader in green technology, expertise, and products
- Recognize the opportunity to reduce poverty and make economic security available to all and ensure that economically, racially and geographically marginalized communities are prioritized for investment and inclusion in the transition
The Office of Climate Change and stakeholder group shall be directed to complete this plan and draft implementing legislation by January 1, 2020, or another timeframe that acknowledges the urgency. In addition to developing a comprehensive plan as outlined above, and recognizing the political realities of the incoming legislature, Governor-elect Whitmer should use executive actions and support policies whenever possible to advance renewable energy, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, mass transit, a modernized electrical grid, and a green jobs program that prioritizes investment in economically, racially and geographically marginalized communities.
3. Oppose the development of a new oil tunnel and other fossil fuel infrastructure in Michigan.
Responding to the reality of the climate crisis requires our state to consider climate in all of our decisions and investments, including building an oil tunnel through the Straits of Mackinac. Building or authorizing this tunnel, which would operate for up to 99 years, contradicts the scientific evidence and global consensus that we must move off fossil fuels immediately. Our modeling finds that the oil transported in Line 5 when burned releases the greenhouse gas equivalent to 21 coal-fired power plants each year. We applaud the Governor-elect’s statements against building an oil tunnel, and we urge her to continue to fight this proposed tunnel through administrative, regulatory, and legal action.
4. Direct state departments to consider climate impacts in all decisions, and to quantify the climate impacts of those decisions such as with estimates of resulting greenhouse gas emissions. Also, direct state departments to identify and take all opportunities to prepare for climate change in all planning and investment decisions, and to prioritize actions that promote equity and prioritize communities most vulnerable to climate impacts.
5. Support national, international, and regional efforts to address climate change, and oppose federal efforts that undo existing policies and agreements that address climate change.
- Pledge Michigan to meet the Paris Agreement goals and join the U.S. Climate Alliance
- Oppose the rollback of federal climate protections and direct the Attorney General to join with other states in legal action to challenge the rollback of these policies, including the rules that regulate methane, regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and require cars to be cleaner and more fuel efficient.
- Support efforts in Congress to address climate change by putting a price on carbon emissions and developing plans to dramatically reduce emissions, including the Green New Deal and the recently introduced carbon fee and dividend legislation.
We are enthusiastic to have Governor-elect Whitmer as our incoming governor, and we are eager to work with her and her Administration on these and other climate priorities. We hope she will join us on February 21 for the Climate Action Summit and share her vision on climate action in a keynote address.
Give us your feedback in the comments below, and let us know what you would like to see added to this.