Gov. Gretchen Whitmer aims to make Michigan completely carbon neutral by the year 2050, her office announced in a press release Wednesday.

“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.”

According to Whitmer, the steps outlined in both Executive Directive 2020-10 and Executive Order 2020-182 — both of which she signed this morning — will provide protections for Michigan’s environment, economy and public health. She wrote the new MI Healthy Climate Plan will also position Michigan to attract clean energy jobs.

The Council on Climate Solutions will take steps that address diversity and equity while working closely with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. The Council and EGLE will be working together on emission-reduction strategies to reduce the greenhouse gas produced in Michigan by 28%. This will be lower than the levels present in Michigan in the 1990s.

In a statement, EGLE Director Liesl Clark wrote the executive order will protect the environment in Michigan for future generations.

“Michiganders have been on the front lines of environmental protection from the first Earth Day 50 years ago, and we continue to lead with these important steps to safeguard Michiganders and their natural resources,” Clark wrote.

Clark said the project will link together plans from cities and towns all over the state that have been implemented to help battle climate emergencies at the local level.

“We’re excited to amplify and elevate the work of so many Michigan cities and towns taking vital steps to protect their residents and resources, while sharing in the benefits brought by clean energy industries,” Clark wrote.

Public Policy senior Sabrina Butcher, Citizens Climate Lobby co-president, said she is pleased with the new orders from Whitmer.

“I think it’s really cool that part of their goal is to address environmental justice,” Butcher said. “Michigan has a lot of wind energy potential especially in the zone to be really cool to see renewable energy kind of take over Michigan and Michigan's economy and to kind of come back that way.”

Citizens who represent a range of sectors, experiences and expertise relating to achieving carbon neutrality will be able to apply to be on the Council on Climate Solutions. Butcher expressed concerns with the open-ended call to the public to apply to be on the council.

“Bringing a lot of different voices together is cool, but I think that’s kind of a dangerous game because if we look at something like the President's Commission on Carbon Neutrality, we’ve had it for a couple years now and it’s done absolutely nothing,” Butcher said. “I think sometimes commissions like that can be a little more symbolic instead producing actual strategies that get adopted.”

The City of Ann Arbor has plans of its own to go completely carbon neutral by 2030. The plan addresses the sectors of energy, mobility, resource reduction and adaptation and resilience, aiming to transition to renewable energy sources and design a zero-carbon transportation system throughout the city.

Ypsilanti is following Ann Arbor’s lead, drafting a similar plan to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2035. 

Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis and concerns about budget shortfalls, Ann Arbor is pushing ahead with its billion-dollar initiative.

Ann Arbor’s plan will rely on efforts at the University of Michigan to reduce the school’s carbon footprint. The President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality is reviewing options for reaching carbon neutrality, but a timeline for a carbon neutrality initiative has not yet been set. The commission released its second interim report in June and is now beginning work on later phases of research and analysis.

In a press release, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., wrote she supported Whitmer’s plan, noting more work must be done at all levels of government to transition to a net-zero emissions economy.

“Thanks to Governor Whitmer’s leadership, Michigan takes seriously the effects of climate change on public health, environmental justice and an equitable transition to a more sustainable economy for our communities and workers,” Dingell wrote. “Michigan and the United States will stay at the forefront of innovation and technology and leave a healthy planet for generations to come.” 

Daily Staff Reporter Jenna Siteman can be reached at jsiteman@umich.edu

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