Walz forms climate 'subcabinet' to get MN back on track with emissions goals

Two teens with "Save Earth" written on their cheeks chant.
Kat Barsten, 17, of St. Paul, and Jay Kampa of Cambridge, Minn. chant "metal straws are not enough," as they gather at Western Sculpture Park on Sept. 20, 2019. The protestors marched from the St. Paul park to the Capitol to call for government action to fight climate change.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

Gov. Tim Walz Monday tapped the heads of multiple Minnesota government agencies to be part of a new collaboration aimed at getting the state back on track with its climate change goals.

Walz said he’ll look to the new climate change subcabinet to suggest policy changes and coordinate responses to reduce harmful emissions and to provide more resiliency as the state experiences heavier rains and warming temperatures.

Minnesota lawmakers set greenhouse gas emission reduction goals in 2007 as part of the Next Generation Energy Act, but so far the state isn’t meeting them. The law calls for a 30 percent reduction in emissions throughout Minnesota’s economy by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

“We must protect Minnesota’s way of life by putting our state at the forefront of finding innovative solutions to climate change,” Walz said Monday at a news conference announcing the subcabinet. “Climate change is no longer a far-off possibility, as Minnesotans across our state are suffering through its devastating effects right now.”

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Walz said the state must think about how to build roads differently, protect shorelines and adjust to changes in growing seasons. He said public health is also a concern as temperatures rise, which could worsen things like air pollution and insect-borne diseases.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop will steer the panel. It will have representatives from 14 other agencies and boards. Walz also created a new advisory council of up to 15 members appointed by the governor to provide his administration with guidance on climate action.

Bishop said the advisory council will be made up of business, community and environmental leaders, scientists and local government officials. She said the MPCA’s mission is to protect the environment and public health, but climate change is making that job more difficult and complex.

“Climate change is our greatest challenge. We must act to protect the Minnesota we love and the Minnesota we want and expect for our future generations,” Bishop said.

The executive action follows an announcement in September that Walz’s administration will pursue new rules that could allow more electric and other low-emissions vehicles to be sold in the state. The governor and DFL lawmakers also proposed legislation earlier this year to require 100 percent clean electricity in the state by 2050, but the Republican-controlled Senate opposed it.