The Michigan Council on Climate Solutions (Climate Council), alongside other experts and stakeholders, have been working under the leadership of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to come up with recommendations to Governor Whitmer that will ensure Michigan's place in a greener, healthier future. Drawing on MI's unique assets, the draft MI Healthy Climate Plan helps position Michigan to be a leader in the clean energy and advanced automotive transition and builds on progress the state, private industry, and numerous local communities are making toward Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's goal of achieving economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050.
The draft plan provides a guide for the state in boosting renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electric transportation as Michigan grows its clean energy economy--now the fastest-growing sector in Michigan. Acting quickly to benefit from federal infrastructure dollars and investment from the private sector will also help position Michigan as a leader in low-carbon ventures.
The Ecology Center participated in several Working Groups that helped develop the core recommendations in the draft plan. We strongly support the effort and urge you to show your support and encourage additional strengthening during the public comment period and through the listening sessions that EGLE is hosting.
“The draft MI Healthy Climate Plan provides a solid foundation for state action to address climate change, including strong recommendations for investing in renewable energy, electric vehicle infrastructure, and expanding transit,” said Charles Griffith, Climate and Energy Program director for the Ecology Center, and one of the co-chairs for the Transportation and Mobility Workgroup for the Council on Climate Solutions. “But follow-through will be paramount to ensure implementation of the policy recommendations needed to meet the Governor's goals of a 52% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050. It's a tall task but essential to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and reduce health-harming pollution in our air and water, while bolstering Michigan's economy and creating thousands of new advanced automotive and clean energy jobs.”
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has set Michigan on a strong path toward reducing energy use and emissions and protecting future generations by addressing the impacts of climate change.
Gov. Whitmer established the Office of Climate and Energy to address climate policy to protect Michiganders from the devastating impacts of climate change. She also expanded and renamed the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to focus on the urgency of addressing climate change in Michigan.
In 2020, Gov. Whitmer tasked the Council on Climate Solutions with providing guidance to help Michigan cut 28% of state emissions by 2025 and achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050 through the implementation of the MI Healthy Climate Plan.
The draft MI Healthy Climate Plan provides a solid foundation for state action to address climate change , but can still be improved upon with additional concrete actions before a final recommendation is made to the governor.
The plan includes a laudable goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030 and a phase-out of coal by 2035. But the plan should also signal the need to more rapidly increase our use of clean, renewable energy in the medium-term. Specifically, the plan should set a goal for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035, in line with the Biden administration’s goals, and an earlier phase-out of coal while also supporting the equitable transition off of fossil fuels.
The plan should also ensure carbon free electricity goals are achieved through build outs of renewable energy and deep investments in energy efficiency; not using solutions like carbon capture and storage, or cap and trade policies, which leave polluting facilities to operate in already disproportionately impacted communities.
Transportation is now the number one source of carbon emissions and accordingly should be a central focus of Michigan’s climate strategy. While the draft plan has strong recommendations for investing in electric vehicle infrastructure and EV purchase incentives, it should also emphasize the need to reduce how much people have to drive. The plan should more specifically recommend that transportation agencies include greenhouse gas emissions in their decision making in order to ensure Michiganders are provided more transportation options, such as expanded public transit and investments in safe walking and biking infrastructure.
Michigan’s building stock is old, which means we need major investments in energy efficiency and a transition to electrification of our homes and businesses. The plan recognizes this need in its section on Innovation, but could go much further by recommending stronger energy efficiency standards and incentives to help consumers transition to efficient, electric heat pumps, particularly for MI residents using more expensive propane and inefficient electric heating systems.
Additionally, the plan should provide funding to address health and safety issues in homes that impede the ability to deliver deep energy saving measures. Target these programs toward households that are experiencing the highest energy burden. Create affordability programs that ensure all Michiganders have access to clean, affordable energy.
The plan makes a significant commitment to equity and the goals of the Biden administration’s Justice40 initiative, which will help to ensure that all Michiganders benefit from the investments made to address climate change. But the plan should advance additional policies that prioritize low-income and environmental justice communities, including major investments in weatherizing homes, eliminating the cap on rooftop solar, and enabling community solar.
The plan recognizes that there are many actions that the state must also take to provide leadership on climate, including concrete commitments for reducing the carbon footprint of state buildings and facilitating renewable energy development on state lands, as well as increased coordination and planning among state agencies. But there is much more work to be done if the state is going to lead on climate action. A recommendation to dedicate more staff and resources to assist in implementing a bold climate plan should also be included.