Cargill, Target ask lawmakers to address climate change in final Capitol negotiations

Gov. Walz gestures to renewable energy workers during a press conference
Gov. Tim Walz gestures to renewable energy workers during a press conference announcing a plan to make Minnesota's electric energy carbon-free by 2050 inside the Minnesota State Capitol on March 4, 2019.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Nine major companies with headquarters or operations in Minnesota are urging state lawmakers to address climate change as part of final policy and spending negotiations at the Capitol.

The DFL-controlled state House has included in its energy bill a requirement that all electricity in the state be produced from carbon-free sources by 2050, but that policy does not appear in the energy bill passed by the Republican-controlled Senate. DFL Gov. Tim Walz proposed the measure.

While the companies did not specifically endorse the 100 percent carbon-free mandate, they argue in a letter to Walz and state lawmakers that reducing carbon emissions will boost Minnesota's economy by attracting businesses that are already working to address climate change on their own.

"We support decarbonization strategies because they will help us ensure prolonged profitability, reduce risk, safeguard the resilience of our supply chains and allow us to better meet the growing demands of our customers and investors," the companies wrote.

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The effort was coordinated by the nonprofit Ceres, which works with companies around the globe to address climate change. It was signed by companies including General Mills, Best Buy, Aveda, Cargill, Tennant Company, Target, Uponor, Clif Bar and Ben & Jerry's.

During conference committee testimony at the State Capitol earlier this week, Aveda global sustainability manager Dan Schibel said more customers are evaluating companies' sustainability practices when choosing products. He also said embracing renewable energy and energy efficiency saves companies money.

"Businesses around the world are requesting clean energy, and we as a state are very well-positioned to be a leader in this space," he said.

The companies that signed the letter are each working on a range of climate goals, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric vehicles, said Jennifer Helfrich, state policy manager with Ceres. She said this letter marks the first time the companies have collectively weighed in on decarbonization in Minnesota.

"A number of them wanted to let decision-makers and their fellow citizens in the state know that they think decarbonization is the priority," she said. "They see it not only as an economic opportunity for the state but as a business imperative for them that climate change poses a material risk."

A conference committee made up of House and Senate negotiators met again Wednesday to work out their differences over a massive bill that includes policy and spending plans on energy, economic development and telecommunications.

Energy provisions in the Senate version of the bill include a plan to pare back Minnesota's community solar garden program and lift the ban on new nuclear power plants, which produce carbon-free energy.

New Mexico, Washington, California and Hawaii have all passed laws requiring 100 percent clean energy by the middle of the century, in order to meet recommendations set by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.