How can Michigan hit climate goals? Letter outlines potential path

Group issues recommendations to Michigan climate council

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 17: A general view of GMC Hummer EVs is pictured on November 17, 2021 at General Motors' Factory ZERO electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan. U.S. President Joe Biden is set to deliver remarks on how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law creates a future made in America, builds electric vehicle charging stations across the country to make it easier to drive an electric vehicle, reduces emissions to fight the climate crisis, and creates good-paying, union jobs across the country. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) (Nic Antaya, 2021 Getty Images)

2022 will be a key year for Michigan’s energy and climate future -- and we now have a peek into what could be the path forward. A look at some of the key points.

🌡️ The climate path ahead for Michigan

This year has been filled with climate promises, locally, nationally and globally. Big, bold, ambitious goals have been set -- and now it’s time to figure out how to reach them.

Just last week, President Joe Biden signed an order to make the federal government carbon-neutral by 2050, aiming for a 65% reduction in planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and an all-electric fleet of car and trucks five years later.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer previously set the state’s goal of economic decarbonization by the year 2050. It also states Michigan will aim to achieve a 28 percent reduction below 1990 levels in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. The directive also created the MI Healthy Climate Plan and Council on Climate Solutions, which is set to make official recommendations in 2022.

We’ve got automakers, utility companies, local municipalities and more setting their own climate goals.

Meanwhile, a large group of organizations and people have released a letter of recommendations, basically from the Michigan science and climate community, outlining how to get Michigan on a path to reach its goals in relation to energy, climate and the future. The letter is signed by nearly 30 Michigan organizations and more than 450 individuals.

📥 Here are some key points of the letter:

First, according to modeling conducted by RMI, for Michigan to get onto a pathway to limit warming to 1.5 degree celsius, by 2030 we must:

  • Reduce transportation sector emissions by 35-40% relative to 2005 levels
  • Reduce electricity generation emissions by 90% relative to 2005 levels
  • And reduce building sector emissions by 50% relative to 2005 levels.

“In short, to reach our 2025, 2030, and 2050 goals we must make major changes starting right now. Those changes should focus on efforts to use less energy, power the grid with renewable energy and electrify buildings, transportation, and industry.”

Related read: 🔒 Explainer: How Michigan gets its power, electricity

The group says the plan must include significant reductions in the energy section in the near-term. “Currently less than 15% of Michigan’s electricity comes from renewable sources like wind and solar. It is critical that we invest heavily in energy efficiency to reduce our electricity demand and rapidly build out the solar and wind resources needed to fully replace the fossil fuels currently generating our electricity.”

“Michigan’s climate plan must put our state on a path to a stable climate, and toward a cleaner, healthier future,” said Kate Madigan, director of the Michigan Climate Action Network. “Reducing dangerous pollution in our air and water also addresses the inequity that currently exists where some communities in our state are disproportionately impacted by reliance on fossil fuels. As we are asking EGLE and the council to review our recommendations, it is crucial the climate plan reduces emissions equitably and prioritizes environmental justice communities.”

Here are some of the “critical” recommendations laid out in the letter:

⚡ Energy systems:

  • Adopt a 100% zero-carbon energy standard by 2035, that does not rely on false solutions like new nuclear energy, carbon capture and sequestration, biogas, or carbon offsets.
  • Advance policies that enable and encourage people to generate their own renewable energy and to better control and manage their energy use, while prioritizing low-income and environmental justice (EJ) communities. These policies include eliminating the cap on distributed generation (DG) of solar, updating the DG avoided cost calculation to better reflect the benefits of rooftop solar, enabling community solar, expanding MI Saves funding and enabling on-bill “pay-as-you-save” and other financing for distributed energy resources (DERs), and expanding and enhancing existing Energy Waste Reduction (EWR), Demand Response (DR), and DER programs, particularly for low-income communities.

🚍 Transportation:

  • Establish strong goals and a roadmap to achieve 50% electric light-duty vehicle sales and 30% electric heavy and medium-duty sales by 2030, including steps toward adopting both car and truck zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards that would require automakers to supply an increasing % of ZEVs to the state.
  • Make buying electric vehicles more affordable and EV charging more broadly accessible by funding the development of EV charging infrastructure and creating an electric vehicle purchase incentive. A statewide charging network could be achieved by expanding utility EV programs, adopting new building codes and parking requirements, and allocating additional state and federal funds to ensure all Michiganders have an opportunity to charge. Additionally, a purchase incentive is needed to narrow the cost gap and drive statewide demand. A priority should be placed on public fleet vehicles, such as transit and school buses, as well as incentives that support lower-income and disadvantaged communities.
  • Require Michigan’s Transportation agencies -- MDOT, regional and local road agencies- - to develop Greenhouse Gas Budgets and integrate them into transportation planning. Those budgets and plans should prioritize transportation projects that encourage less driving, like expanding transit and non-motorized transit options, and building dedicated bus and bike lanes.
  • Give Michiganders more safe and convenient options to get around without driving, including doubling state funding to expand and improve public and non-motorized transportation and create safer streets for walking and biking. This includes comprehensive plans to expand access to convenient zero-emission public and non-motorized transit throughout Michigan and for a Safe Systems Approach to reduce Vulnerable Road User fatalities.

🏢 Buildings and Housing:

  • Set a target of 100% of all new heating equipment sales to be electric by 2035 and set interim targets leading up to 2035.
  • Encourage utilities to increase spending on energy efficiency programs, in particular programs for low-income and energy burdened customers, to pursue all cost-effective energy waste reduction possible for their customers. And the MPSC should study what reforms or changes to the EWR programs might be needed to better target building shell improvements and/or what programmatic options are available to improve the building envelope and insulation of the current housing stock.

➡️ Environmental Justice and Climate Justice

  • Require state agencies to conduct an EJ analysis of climate impacts using an EJ screen that establishes a baseline of emissions and cumulative impacts, and regularly measures progress on pollution reductions in EJ communities.
  • Prioritize EJ communities and directly reduce energy burden, disparities, and emissions in communities of color and low- and moderate-income communities, including specific goals to deploy clean energy resources and mitigation efforts in frontline communities like the Justice40 Initiative.
  • Use the influx of federal dollars to prioritize jobs training programs, resiliency investments, and other investments in vulnerable and historically underinvested communities.

🌳 Natural and Working Lands:

  • Prohibit the use of nature-based offsets in the energy/utility, transportation, and building sectors. Offsets in these sectors will only serve to delay real GHG reductions and negatively impact EJ and frontline communities by frustrating efforts to reduce harmful air pollution and GHG emissions at the source.
  • Ensure Michigan is maintaining and developing healthy forests, including by pursuing establishing a 30 x 30 land protection target in Michigan.
  • Ensure we protect existing wetlands and waterways, including establishing a moratorium on the destruction of wetlands and using existing state planning processes to encourage the preservation and restoration of wetlands.

The letter closes by saying: “The next decade will be decisive in our effort to stop climate change by transitioning off fossil fuels. This transition off of fossil fuels will also reduce pollution, save lives and health care costs, make for healthier communities, create good jobs, and boost local economies. By prioritizing investments in most impacted and disadvantaged communities we will also be supporting and benefiting those most impacted by climate change.”

(You can check out the full letter right here)

Related reads:

♨️ Hot reads

  • Arctic warming: The Arctic continues to deteriorate from global warming, not setting as many records this year as in the past, but still changing so rapidly that federal scientists call it alarming in their annual Arctic report card. The 16th straight health check for the northern polar region spotlighted the first ever rainfall at Greenland summit station, record warm temperatures between October and December 2020, and the new problem of expansion of beavers in the Arctic. More here.
  • Tornadoes and climate change: The calendar said December but the warm moist air screamed of springtime. Add an eastbound storm front guided by a La Nina weather pattern into that mismatch and it spawned tornadoes that killed dozens over five U.S. states. Here’s a look at what’s known about Friday’s tornado outbreak and the role of climate change in such weather events.
  • Potato, potato: University of Maine researchers are trying to produce potatoes that can better withstand warming temperatures as the climate changes. More here.

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter.