Minneapolis elected officials on Monday joined hundreds of other jurisdictions across the world in declaring a climate emergency, committing to doubling down on their efforts to reduce the city's carbon footprint.
The move by the council's environment committee came months after a report showed the city was not on track to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Citywide consumption of natural gas rose last year, in large part due to inadequate winter energy conservation in older buildings.
Residents demanded the city declaration to publicly acknowledge the climate crisis, said Council Member Cam Gordon. Mayor Jacob Frey said it was largely symbolic but that it "helps to articulate a clear problem and one that needs to be acted upon."
Dozens of people filled the council chambers for the adoption of the declaration, holding signs that said "Environmental Justice" and "Get Serious Now." Gordon told the crowd that this was the first step toward a "Minneapolis Green New Deal," referring to the congressional plan to reduce the use of fossil fuels and rely more on clean energy.
Council Member Andrea Jenkins said she wanted city officials and activists to improve outreach to communities of color that can be most affected by climate change. "They are not being convinced that this is the issue of our day," she said.
Since 2006, Minneapolis has seen a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. About 73% of all emissions are from energy used by buildings, according to the report.
Council members said they plan to adopt a policy requiring development projects receiving city subsidies to be more energy-efficient. St. Paul has had a similar policy in place for more than a decade. "We need to build more efficient buildings that are more resilient and can handle drops in temperature without having to use a large amount of additional fossil fuels to keep them warm," said Kim Havey, the city's director of sustainability.
A detailed policy will be presented next year.
City officials said the "social cost" of carbon, a dollar value to measure the damage done by carbon dioxide emissions, was $42.46 per ton of carbon. The value, which is determined by the Public Utilities Commission, only rises over the years as the effects of climate change are expected to become more pronounced.