Messages from the Council Chair

We’re acting on climate change now

September 2021

Chair Charlie ZelleOur region has been slower to experience the dramatic impacts of climate change than places like California, ravaged by multiple wildfires, or the Gulf Coast, assaulted by supercharged hurricanes.

But the evidence is accumulating here, too — a shorter ice fishing season and more severe rainstorms are among the signs. This summer we may have gotten a taste of things to come with prolonged drought and weeks of hazy days as smoke from northern forest fires filled our skies.

Statewide, Governor Tim Walz is calling on us all to reflect on the urgent need to act on climate change, declaring this week as Climate Week.

We have a long-term commitment to sustainability

The Metropolitan Council has long been committed to the sustainability of the region through our work in wastewater treatment and monitoring water quality, providing transit service, and funding the regional park system. But in recent years we have become increasingly focused on actions that will further reduce regional carbon emissions, help communities adapt to climate change impacts, and increase the region’s resiliency. Here are just a few examples of initiatives across our agency:

  • Metro Transit is in the process of buying eight 40-foot electric buses, adding chargers to the new Minneapolis Bus Garage, and returning the METRO C Line’s electric buses to service as soon as possible. We’ll have a long-range plan completed next year that will provide a roadmap for transitioning our bus fleet to low- and no-emission models, as funding and technical feasibility allow.
  • Network Next is our 20-year plan for expanding and improving the bus network, including adding more bus rapid transit lines. This network has the potential to expand mobility and significantly reduce vehicle miles traveled in the region.
  • We have several studies under way looking at ways to reduce carbon from the transportation sector, including an electric vehicle planning study. The study will identify strategies to accelerate electric vehicle adoption in the region as a way to reduce emissions and improve public health.
  • Our Community Development researchers have developed a regional greenhouse gas inventory and will soon release a scenario planning tool. These tools will enable local governments to measure their emissions and look at the impact of different strategies for reducing them.
  • The Growing Shade project, our partnership with Nature Conservancy and the Tree Trust, is creating a tool to help cities prioritize tree planting and maintenance to address equity, environmental justice, extreme heat, localized flooding, and other challenges related to climate change.
  • Our Environmental Services division continuously pursues opportunities for improved energy efficiency as we design, select, and install technologies in our wastewater treatment system. We also recover energy from biosolids through anaerobic digestion and sustainable incineration. These activities have reduced our fossil-fuel purchases in the system by more than 15% since 2006.
  • We advance solar energy in the region by hosting solar energy projects on Council-owned property and subscribing to community solar gardens. We are working toward purchasing 100% of our electricity from new renewable energy sources — like wind and solar — by 2040.
A large solar array during the winter.

Our agency-wide Climate Action Plan is under way

To maximize the impact of these efforts and better coordinate across the Met Council, we are engaged in creating our first Climate Action Plan. The plan is being developed by a cross-divisional team that will identify new goals and strategies to be adopted by the Met Council in 2022. This week, I am recommending a Climate Work Group be established to explore additional policies and actions the Met Council could pursue in confronting climate change.

We are not alone in our efforts. Counties and dozens of cities across the region are switching to green energy, hardening critical infrastructure against extreme weather, installing electric vehicle charging stations, building pedestrian and bike paths, and taking other actions to address climate change. Businesses, nonprofits, and educational institutions are also addressing this critical issue.

Climate change is a global problem, and we can make a big impact right here at home. Let’s use Climate Week to spur action across our region.