By Zach Welcker
This is a difficult time to write a blog about climate change.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 is a stark reminder that humans still cannot agree to stop killing each other. How then will we ever be able to agree upon a coordinated response to global warming? This question itself is a privilege that people who are busy fighting for their lives do not have time to ask. What should those of us who have this privilege do with it?
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has bravely answered this question. In 2019, she and a bipartisan group of governors formed the U.S. Climate Alliance following former President Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement. Through this alliance, the governor committed Michigan to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions levels in support of the goals of the Paris accord. The governor issued Executive Directive 2020-10–Building a Carbon-Neutral Michigan–to implement this commitment. It charges the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) with developing and implementing a “Healthy Climate Plan” to achieve Michigan’s greenhouse-gas reduction targets and otherwise prepare for and adapt to climate impacts that are now unavoidable.
EGLE’s draft MI Healthy Climate Plan is an imperfect response to this charge. Please join FLOW in helping EGLE improve the draft by emailing your public comments by the March 14 deadline to: EGLE-ClimateSolutions@Michigan.gov. We recommend requesting the following changes along with any other concerns or recommendations you may have.
- Transform the draft MI Healthy Climate Plan from a decarbonization plan into a comprehensive climate plan. While EGLE’s primary task under Executive Directive 2020-10 is to develop a plan to achieve carbon neutrality, the department’s charge is far broader than that. Paragraph 3 of the directive expressly states that EGLE’s implementation obligation includes “monitoring and evaluating programs and activities that support statewide climate mitigation and adaptation practices.” The draft does not address adaptation or climate resiliency.
- Provide baseline climate and environmental data. In order to meet its monitoring and evaluation obligations, EGLE needs to establish baseline environmental and climate conditions. This data also will help Michiganders better understand the benefits and limitations of carbon neutrality. For instance, if the distinction between avoidable and unavoidable climate impacts is not clearly defined, the public may lose faith as decarbonization proceeds and certain impacts continue to occur.
- Make water a primary focus of the plan. Water is the primary medium through which people experience climate change. Given the importance of water to all Michiganders, we need to understand how our relationship with water is projected to change for the worse without urgent, meaningful action.
- Include a glossary of terms. A glossary will help Michiganders more readily navigate climate-change jargon.
We have to eat the apple and plant the seeds at a time like this. By submitting comments, you’ll be doing both.