Who’s really to blame for Minnesota’s stalled climate agenda? | Opinion

Boundary Waters Canoe Area campsite. Photo by Paul Stafford, courtesy of Explore Minnesota.

We’re lucky to have an abundance of advocacy organizations dedicated to protecting our environment in Minnesota. Our goals are ultimately the same — no matter what you look like or where you live, you should have the right to clean water, healthy air and safe and equal access to our beautiful outdoors. But how each organization pursues solutions to those goals can vary, and occasionally that means having a spirited discussion among ourselves about the best path forward. 

So, as we approached Earth Day 2021, it was “interesting” — to use a favorite word of Minnesotans — to see several groups give Gov. Tim Walz a failing grade at tackling the climate crisis. 

In 2018, Walz campaigned on a pledge to make Minnesota a leader on climate and the clean energy economy. It is fitting that his motto of “One Minnesota” is a prerequisite to making Minnesota carbon-free, as it will require a joint effort from labor, agriculture, utilities and more. The governor’s commitment to include all Minnesotans was the vision required from a candidate serious about tackling the existential climate threat. It earned him the support of environmentalists across the state.  

Halfway through his term, he has lived up to this pledge. 

Just two months after taking office, he proposed a set of policies to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050. Recognizing a worsening crisis, this year he moved up the goal by 10 years to 2040. He created the Climate Change Subcabinet and Advisory Council tasked with finding innovative ways to meet our carbon reduction goals.

He took the initiative with Clean Cars Minnesota to reduce our No. 1 source of climate pollution by cutting tailpipe emissions and putting more electric vehicles on the road. If enacted, we would join 14 other states in adopting these standards. Because vehicle pollution has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income households, Clean Cars Minnesota is an important first step in correcting the many injustices of environmental racism. 

So what’s the hold up?

It’s important to focus on the real reasons for the lack of climate progress in Minnesota. So far, every time Walz and Democratic-Farmer-Labor leaders in the Minnesota House have presented and passed major climate legislation, they’ve been met with a roadblock in the Republican-led Minnesota Senate. 

This shouldn’t be a complete surprise, as Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, is on the record saying, “if Minnesota is two degrees warmer in 100 years, I don’t think anyone will complain.” Gazelka isn’t alone on this. Just this past week his caucus once again voted against a floor amendment that acknowledges human activities are the leading cause of climate change. 

Despite these beliefs, the Senate Republican caucus committed to passing meaningful clean energy legislation prior to the 2020 legislative session. But this year, without an upcoming election, this priority has been quietly removed.

Instead, Senate Republicans are running the same Big Oil playbook of denying the science, spreading misinformation and obstructing at all costs. Republican legislators, the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association, and the Center of the American Experiment have worked overtime to confuse Minnesotans and discredit the Governor’s Clean Cars proposal. Despite this onslaught of attacks, Walz has displayed an unwavering backbone to see this process through. 

Let’s Work Together

It’s not too late for legislators and leaders of both parties to take significant steps together that accelerate Minnesota’s necessary transition to healthy air and clean energy for all. There are many proposals at the Capitol that deserve support. But there are no shortcuts or gimmicks to make it happen, just the hard work of legislating, governing and delivering results for the people of Minnesota.

If there is inaction, there will also be opportunities for Minnnesotans to hold their leaders accountable. This is also no place to rely on shortcuts or gimmicks. Instead, we must focus on the important work of providing truthful and trustworthy information so that every Minnesotan understands the actions — or inaction — of their elected leaders.