Climate and Environmental Justice

Climate change is one of the biggest threats our city faces. There is no doubt that we must take immediate action to reduce carbon emissions and rectify the irreparable damage caused by human activity. While we all experience the effects of pollution and environmental degradation, due to the perpetual cycle of environmental racism, people of color and indigenous (POCI) communities are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards—air pollution, proximity to incinerators and industrial polluters, and lead poisoning. These communities should be at the center of our policies as we build toward a just future in our city. Minneapolis must lead in the fight for a sustainable future where everyone has access to clean air and water. People have a right to a healthy and environmentally safe neighborhood, regardless of where they live in the city.

State of Environmental Justice

  • Areas of North Minneapolis have higher rates of lead poisoning than the city of Flint, Michigan
  • Of the $2.5 million awarded from the Northern Metals settlement, the city—with limited community input and feedback—invested only $600,000 into local health programs
  • Zip Code 55411—contains I-94 in North Minneapolis—has the highest asthma hospitalization rate in the seven-county metro area
  • Overall, 21% of Minneapolis residents pay twice the median cost on their utilities—57% of low-income residents and 32% of black households pay twice the median cost
  • Minneapolis residents spend $570 million per year on electricity and gas—investing in clean energy, and efficiency and conservation programs could save us $250 million annually
  • 42% of eligible Minneapolis households participate in organic recycling

Minneapolis adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2013. We are not on track to meet several of our major goals.

  • Goal: Generate 10% of our energy from renewable sources by 2025
    • We currently generate less than 1% from renewable sources
  • Goal: Retrofit 75% of residential buildings in Minneapolis by 2025
    • We have retrofitted about 10% of buildings and homes. To meet our goal, the city needs to retrofit 8% of buildings annually, compared to our current rate of 0.8%
  • Goal: Hold waste generation flat and recycle 50% of all waste by 2025
    • We currently divert 34% of all waste to recycling
  • Goal: Reduce greenhouse emissions 15% by 2015, and 30% by 2025
    • We met the 2015 goal, but Minneapolis’ Energy Vision Advisory Committee says it is “difficult to tell if we are on track” to meet the 2030 goal

 

Priorities and Vision

Minneapolis must take decisive action to protect our climate, air, water, and public health. We have control over how we power our city, manage waste systems, and protect neighborhoods from polluters. We must use this leverage to protect the health of all families, combat the effects of climate change, and create living wage clean energy jobs that invest in our communities

  • Uplift Environmental Justice
    • Shut down industrial polluters prioritizing low-income and majority-POCI neighborhoods
    • Pay reparations to communities damaged by environmental racism
    • Build community wealth and health through the expansion of urban agriculture, community solar gardens, and energy efficiency programs
  • Lead on Climate Action
    • Achieve 100% renewable energy citywide by 2030
    • Build housing density along public transit corridors to decrease reliance on automobiles
    • Prioritize multimodal transportation over automobiles in transit infrastructure
  • Build a Zero Waste City
    • Shut down the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC)
    • Divert 100% of recyclables and organics from landfills and incinerators by 2030
    • Expand education on and access to city single-sort and organics recycling programs

 

Action

  1. Utilize the Clean Energy Partnership to pressure utility companies to take bolder action: The Clean Energy partnership is a unique relationship between utility companies and the city. As Mayor—Chair of the Partnership—I will use my position to fight to adopt the following goals: 100% renewable energy for municipal buildings by 2021, 100% renewable energy for the city as a whole by 2030, and complete carbon neutrality by 2050.
  2. Fully fund the clean energy partnership by increasing franchise fees: I support the efforts of the Clean Energy Partnership to nominally increase the cost of utilities. The new funding should go toward community engagement and programs that expand access to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. We must also ensure this funding reaches communities with the least access to clean energy.
  3. Adopt Inclusive Financing: A mechanism for low-income renters and homeowners to participate in energy efficiency and clean energy programs without upfront cost, a loan from the bank, home ownership, or a good credit score. To meet our Climate Action Plan, the city needs to retrofit 8% of homes every year. Utility companies offering inclusive financing models have seen up to 92% participation-rates, five times current participation in Minneapolis.
  4. Invest in community solar gardens: Member-owned gardens empower people in the fight for sustainability. Cooperative solar gardens allow renters, low-income residents, people whose homes cannot accommodate solar panels, and others access to renewable energy.
  5. Expand targeted community engagement programs: Following the recommendation of the Energy Vision Advisory Committee, we should fully fund the Clean Energy Partnership’s pilot community engagement program. We need to target engagement toward communities with low participation rates in energy programs, such as renters, low-income residents, and POCI communities. Additionally, the city should dedicate permanent funding to engage small businesses in sustainability programs, like recent efforts by the Lake Street Council.
  6. Invest in quality green jobs: Green job growth doubled that of traditional jobs since the 2008 recession. Median wages in the green economy are 13% higher than US median wages. We must invest in green jobs by opening a training center in Minneapolis to provide training and form pathways to employment in partnership with clean energy companies. These programs should prioritize recruitment of low-wage and POCI workers.
  7. Transition to a clean fleet of city vehicles: Our city’s fleet of vehicles currently run on diesel fuel. The city must invest in converting our vehicles to run on renewable fuel.
  8. Mandate that homes be tested for lead: Despite the ban of lead paint in 1978 and efforts to update homes built before then, children in majority POCI neighborhoods still experience lead poisoning at greater rates than other communities. The city must mandate that homeowners test for lead hazard. We need to work with the state to secure funding to safely abate lead, before properties are sold or rented.
  9. Adopt an equitable zero-waste plan: The city of Minneapolis is currently developing a zero-waste program to be put forth before the council by the end of 2017. This plan must include an expansion of organics recycling to large-scale residential buildings and commercial buildings, a simplified waste hauling system to make implementation easier for these structures, and targeted community education on the benefits of zero waste programs.
  10. Shut down the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC): The HERC is a garbage incinerator located just outside the North Loop and disposes of 75% of the 200,000 tons of waste Minneapolis produces each year. The HERC’s emissions contribute to air pollution in North Minneapolis which has lead to higher asthma rates in the community. We also need to shift the way we approach waste management, away from burning trash. 75% of what goes into the HERC could be recycled or composted.
  11. Increase land access for urban agriculture: Community gardens and urban farms provide communities with access to healthy, locally grown food—they build social networks, foster land stewardship, and increase climate resiliency. The city should expand access to vacant plots and city-owned land to be repurposed for urban agriculture.
  12. Oppose all current and future efforts to construct oil and gas pipelines in Minnesota: We must oppose any effort that continues our dependence on fossil fuels. Not only would a leak in the proposed Line 3 pipeline damage our city’s main water source, the Mississippi, it’s existence would violate treaty rights of the Anishinaabe people in Northern Minnesota. As Mayor, I will advocate at the state level to oppose all future pipelines.
  13. Build a coalition of Twin Cities Mayors to combat climate change: Minneapolis needs partners in the fight against climate change. As Mayor, I will work to build a coalition of surrounding cities (e.g. St. Paul, Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, Robbinsdale, St. Louis Park, etc.) as we implement a regional strategy to transition to renewable energy and reduce waste production.
  14. Continue to prioritize and invest in existing city programs which move us toward a sustainable future including Complete Streets, Green Zones, and stormwater management.