Models for tackling climate change at the regional level

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the next regional plan (called ThriveMSP 2040) may be one of the most significant pieces of policy that gets made in Minnesota in this decade. Every ten years, the Metropolitan Council looks at how the “systems” of our region are performing (land use, transportation, water, wastewater, parks and more), and how we should plan for the next decade of growth and development.

Whatever doesn’t get put into this plan, may have to wait another ten years. As Bill rightly points out, one issue we cannot wait on is addressing climate change. Given the myriad ways that the regional plan will impact the land use, transportation and energy systems we use and their atmospheric impacts, ThriveMSP should address this issue in a systematic fashion, and the Metropolitan Council should incorporate it into every subsequent policy plan that’s based on the regional plan.

There is some hope that the plan will address this generational challenge. As the Council continues its conversations about the plan “goals”, the phrase climate change, and the idea of preparing for its impacts, does appear in the proposals.

The region and local governments are prepared for and respond to the opportunities and challenges presented by climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions and energy use per capita decline.

Why, as a creation of the state, Met Council doesn’t simply adopt the mitigation goals enshrined in state law, I’m not sure. But it’s at least a start.

The other good news is that the Met Council has some clear models to follow. In a previous post, I laid out a few ideas, but there are even more concrete examples. Other regional governments that have done this before.

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission has completed a regional greenhouse gas inventory to support the region’s goals of reducing emissions 50 percent by 2035 and 80 percent by 2050. Doing this inventory at the regional scale removes one of the major barriers an engaged city faces when preparing for climate action. Inventories can be time and money-consuming, and are a highly technical process. A regional inventory provides consistency, and makes sense since many of our emissions sources (like road transportation) are not confined to one community, but occur on a regional scale.

The DVRPC is also coordinating efforts to respond to climate threats in their region – like rising sea levels, and has published renewable energy ordinance frameworks to help local governments make development of renewable energy easy.

The Chicago region has also completed a regional greenhouse gas inventory to support the emissions reduction goals of their GO TO 2040 plan. GO TO 2040 has aggressive goals for improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the Chicago area.

So where do we go from here? Well, Met Council is still in listening mode, but soon enough they’ll begin drafting the plan that will shape land use, transportation and other infrastructure decisions throughout the 7 counties. Many of these issues, and their related emissions impacts, are clearly best suited to be addressed at the regional scale. Regional governments were created to plan our transportation, water and wastewater systems and address significant regional issues.

Our region should look to other areas of the county for successful models and make sure we use this opportunity to address what will likely be the most significant challenge of the next century.

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