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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Gov. Gretchen Whitmer COURTESY PHOTO

Whitmer order sets 2050 carbon neutral climate change goal

BY Wednesday, September 23, 2020 03:34pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer aims to create more clean energy jobs in the state by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and becoming carbon neutral within 30 years.

Under an executive order issued Wednesday, Michigan joined the U.S. Climate Alliance and targets at least a 26- to 28-percent reduction from 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. The state would then “aim to achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality no later than 2050, and to maintain net negative greenhouse gas emissions thereafter,” according to the order.

The U.S. Climate Alliance is a coalition of 25 governors supporting goals in the Paris Climate Agreement, which the U.S. withdrew from under President Trump.

“The science is clear — climate change is directly impacting our public health, environment, our economy, and our families,” Whitmer said in a statement.

“This dangerous reality is already causing harm throughout Michigan, with communities of color and low-income Michiganders suffering disproportionately, which is why I’m taking immediate action to protect our state. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to leave them a cleaner, safer and healthier world,” Whitmer added. 

The order directs the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy — guided by an advisory council — to develop a MI Health Climate Plan to follow “for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning toward carbon neutrality throughout the economy,” according to the state.

The Department of Treasury also will develop a plan to assist local communities “in maintaining critical services and ensuring high quality employment for workers while moving toward a more sustainable future when faced with the closure of energy facilities.”

Whitmer’s announcement today included statements of support from unions, health and environmental advocates, and Steelcase Inc. President and CEO James Keane.

In a statement, Grand Rapids-based Steelcase commended Whitmer’s “passion to mitigate climate change while keeping Michigan in a competitive economic position.”

“We’ve called Michigan home for more than 100 years and we are similarly committed to fighting climate change while growing our business,” Keane said. “We are doing the hard work of reducing Steelcase-generated greenhouse gases to become carbon negative by 2030. The urgent and omnipresent threat of climate change requires all of us to act collectively and swiftly. Steelcase is proud to continue the fight.”

The Michigan Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers and distributors in the state, also supported the governor’s plan, along with environmental groups.

“Michigan is home to too much fossil-fuel based infrastructure,” said Margrethe Kearney, Grand Rapids-based senior attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Gov. Whitmer’s bold executive order makes clear that Michigan will be a leader in tackling climate change by unabashedly recognizing the impact Greenhouse Gas emissions have on our environment.”

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