For the past two months I’ve been furiously working to collect comment cards from Twin Cities area youth in support of the EPA Clean Power Plan before the public comment period ends on December 1. To curb climate change, the plan calls for nationwide emissions reductions of 30 percent by 2030, and would require Minnesota to reduce its carbon emissions by more than a third in that time. Together with my fellow students from Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota (YEA! MN), the high school program of the Will Steger Foundation, we collected 649 comment cards supporting the plan.
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Last Friday a contingent of YEA! MN students, along with representatives from MPIRG and Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, delivered comment cards and photo petitions to the Governor’s office to show our support for a strong Minnesota Clean Power Plan.
One question I get asked a lot – mostly by adults – when I explain the work I’m doing is, “Why do people your age care about environmental issues and clean energy?” I’ve noticed a common thread while talking to hundreds of youth about the Clean Power Plan: it’s simply common sense to put limits on the carbon pollution that causes climate change and replace coal-fired power plants with renewable energy. We are not just preserving the planet for future generations; it is likely we will begin to see the drastic effects of climate change within our own lifetimes.
I believe that we are close to reaching the tipping point when it comes to finding climate change solutions. And, if we don’t act now, the drastic effects from climate change will be irreversible. Although many of today’s youth know that creating a more sustainable, carbon-neutral world is common sense, we cannot make the policy changes that would address climate change ourselves. We hope that through initiatives like supporting the Clean Power Plan, we can show our current leaders that young people have a voice and these are the issues we care about.
Minnesota has made great strides in moving towards clean energy, quadrupling the power that comes from renewable sources since 2000, but we still have a long way to go. The Midwest has an extremely energy-intensive economy, with per capita greenhouse gas emissions 22% above the national average. As energy use is expected to increase in the coming years, we need to harness the huge potential for renewable energy in the region and move away from a coal-dependent energy system. With the support of Governor Dayton and our state legislature, Minnesota can become a regional and national leader in retiring dirty coal power plants and moving to clean, renewable energy.
We need Governor Dayton and the EPA to implement a strong Clean Power Plan so that in 2030 my generation will be in a much better position to truly end human-induced climate change.