Council committee approves ambitious goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions

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April 14, 2014 // UPDATED 6:24 pm - April 14, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

The City Council's Health, Environment & Community Engagement Committee voted this afternoon to approve a long-term goal of cutting Minneapolis greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 based on 2006 levels.

The benchmark would align the city with goals already established by Hennepin County and the state of Minnesota. Several other major cities have also approved similar goals, including Portland, San Francisco, Vancouver, Boston and Chicago. Seattle has set a goal of reducing emissions 100 percent by 2050. 

The Council previously has approved goals of cutting emissions 15 percent by 2015 and 30 percent by 2025 from 2006 emission levels.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated in 2007 that an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 would limit temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius, according to a report presented to the Council committee by Brendon Slotterback, the city's sustainability program coordinator.

He said it's going to take "fundamental changes" for Minneapolis to achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

 "An 80 percent reduction goal will be significantly more challenging than the City’s current 2025  goal for a 30 percent reduction. While staff has not conducted a detailed analysis of the  opportunities and challenges of meeting an 80 percent goal, it would likely mean fundamental changes in many of our urban infrastructure systems," Slotterback wrote in the report. 

To meet the goals, the city would need "significantly" more energy efficient buildings, an electricity grid that generates electricity from 75 to 100 percent carbon-free sources and cleaner transportation options, among other things, Slotterback wrote.

He said the latest data shows the city is very close to reaching the 2015 goal. 

"We do know that 2013 emissions will likely be higher," he said. "Xcel has already told us that their emissions coefficient (the amount of CO2 they produce per MWh of electricity) will be going up, in part because they brought the damaged Sherco coal units back online. Since electricity is such a major portion of our inventory, any change there has a significant impact."

The Minneapolis Community Environmental Advisory Commission has also endorsed the 80 percent emission reduction by 2050 goal. 

"It is important to meet our carbon-reduction goals in ways that are fair and equitable, and  that don't exacerbate other environmental concerns," wrote Darrell Gerber, the commissioner's chair, in a letter to the committee.  "If done right, decarbonization will lead to  increased jobs, investment, and quality of life in our sustainable, growing city."

The full Council will vote on the goal at its April 25 meeting.