CHICAGO – Officials from the states of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin gathered to discuss actions their Administrations were taking to combat climate change and explore options for regional cooperation. The meeting, convened by leaders of the Midwest Environmental Justice Network, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters marked one of the first discussions of regional climate action in the Midwest in more than a decade and may lead to continued cooperation moving forward.
All four states have new Governors who campaigned on clean energy issues and have signed onto the US Climate Alliance, pledging their states to live up to the goals of the Paris Climate accord, even as the Trump Administration attempts to pull out of the climate agreement. According to a report released by Environmental Entrepreneurs last week, 70% of the region’s energy jobs are in the clean energy sector.
Following are statements from green leaders in attendance:
"Fenceline communities do not always get a voice in these discussions, so it is important to have equity as a central component of climate policy," said Kim Wasserman, Executive Director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and Goldman Prize winner, who along with Cecilia Martínez from the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy represented the Midwest Environmental Justice Network at the meeting. "We all want aggressive action to safeguard our communities from the impacts of climate change, and policies must be designed to address the needs of communities already bearing a disproportionate pollution burden. These communities are also leading on the development of transformative policies in the Midwest. Evers, Whitmer, Walz and Pritzker now have a unique opportunity to lead—on climate, and on climate justice."
"If the Upper Midwest and Great Plains states were a country, it would stand as the 6th largest global climate emitter--we simply cannot win the climate fight without leadership in the Midwest," said Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "By working together to amplify the work they are already doing in their states, Governors Pritzker, Whitmer, Evers and Walz can step into the national spotlight as climate leaders and retake the Midwest’s rightful mantle as an innovation hub."
"These leaders were elected in part because of their commitment to climate action, and they now have the opportunity to ensure this region helps leads the nation toward a 100% clean energy economy that leaves nobody behind," said Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director. "While the Trump Administration refuses to acknowledge the problem, these Governors are leading the way in pursuing shared solutions that can create hundreds of thousands of family-sustaining jobs across the Midwest while taking real action to tackle the climate crisis. We applaud their leadership and look forward to working with them in the years to come."
"It is exciting to see leadership in the Midwest come together to tackle the climate crisis head on," said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters. "By coordinating across state lines and working with our state partners across the region, we are confident that these administrations can deliver on the 100% clean energy plans they’ve proposed to help the Midwest lead the nation in offering serious climate solutions and building our clean energy economy."
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC