Sept. 23rd, 2020
Today, Governor Whitmer made Michigan the 9th state to commit to 100% carbon neutrality by signing Executive Directive 2020-10 and Executive Order 2020-182. These executive actions on climate change establish a long-term goal for Michigan to become carbon neutral by 2050, a near-term goal for emission reductions by 2025, a directive to develop a MI Healthy Climate Plan, and an order establishing a new Council on Climate Solutions.
Addressing climate change has never been more critical. This year, in the middle of a global pandemic, our country has seen massive wildfires in the West, hurricanes increasing in number and strength across the Southeast, and record heat nationwide. In Michigan alone, 2020 has brought not only a 500-year flood event that caused the collapse of two dams, but also all-time high water levels in the Great Lakes, record heat this summer, and a polar vortex last winter. We can no longer claim that the harsh impacts of climate change are part of our future. They are our present.
In addition to the devastating environmental impacts of extreme climate events, the cumulative impact of our reliance on fossil fuels is felt every day in our most vulnerable communities. Coal plants and other fossil fuel burning industries have released so much toxic pollution into our air that Michiganders suffer disproportionately high rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. These impacts have been largely felt by low income families and in communities of color, where siting of polluting facilities has long ignored the risks to human health. The respiratory harm caused by air pollution also leaves these communities most vulnerable to the worst effects of COVID-19.
We are happy to see that the governor’s executive order aims to address these systemic disparities by directing that EGLE to work with its Environmental Justice Public Advocate in developing its MI Healthy Climate Plan. This is an important step, but it will also be critical that the newly created Council on Climate Solutions include the voices of those who are most impacted. A seat at the table ensures that Michigan’s plan to transition to clean energy will elevate equity. Our solutions need to protect the health of Michigan’s most vulnerable people and to ensure that the new jobs and economic benefits enhance the lives of those who have been most harmed by the decisions of our past.
Achieving carbon neutrality will require significant work across our entire economy. Today's executive actions build upon Governor Whitmer’s creation of the Office and Council on Future Mobility and Electrification earlier this year, which is aimed at bolstering Michigan's global mobility leadership, including development of shared transportation systems and electric vehicles.
We must all work together to create a clean energy economy that protects public health; powers our homes, businesses and vehicles with clean energy; drastically reduces our use of carbon emitting fossil fuels; advances equity; and protects Michigan’s most vulnerable people. The Ecology Center is committed to working with Governor Whitmer’s administration and stakeholders across all sectors to act boldly in addressing the existential threat of climate change.
To read the full EO and ED, click the links below.
Published on September 23, 2020