Hundreds attend post-election climate-justice discussion

Event gathered community members to advocate for clean-energy policies, climate justice

Eric Immler (right) discusses strategies for clean-energy action at Monday's post-election climate-justice event. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

Minnesota communities can continue advancing clean-energy policies despite Republican election victories, leaders of local environmental nonprofits said Monday.

The state will need to replace 70 percent of its electricity-generation capacity in the next 20 years, said Timothy DenHerder-Thomas of the Minneapolis nonprofit Community Power, which supports clean-energy policies. While certain actions may not be feasible in a Republican-controlled state legislature, there is plenty of action Minnesota can take, he said.

“Action on climate change isn’t something that’s going to hurt our communities,” said DenHerder-Thomas. “This is the best thing that we could be doing for our communities.”

DenHerder-Thomas was among the nonprofit leaders who spoke at Monday’s post-election climate-justice event at Plymouth Congregational Church. More than 350 people attended the event, which was hosted by a coalition of 10 environmental and liberal nonprofits.

The nonprofits organized the event to provide a space for community building, processing and planning for advancing climate justice under a Donald Trump administration, said Patty O’Keefe of MN350.

“It would be easy to look at what Trump said about climate change and feel climate action is a lost cause,” O’Keefe said. She added that there are a lot of “levers” for advancing local, municipal and state policy that don’t rely on the federal government.

Trump said last month that he has “an open mind” on climate change but has called it a “hoax” in the past. He has also promised to scrap the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, “cancel” the 2015 Paris climate agreement and “save” the U.S. coal industry.

In Minnesota, the share of electricity produced by coal dropped 22 percentage points from 2000 to 2015, while the share of electricity produced by renewables increased 15 percent, according to the Commerce Department. The state is on pace to exceed its renewable energy standard of 25 percent by 2025, according to the department, and is expected to increase its solar-power generation 15 fold this year.

DenHerder-Thomas said Community Power wants to see a stronger focus on energy efficiency. He noted a desire to build an electrical grid based on renewable energy while “doing it in a way that is long term more cost effective for the community.”

DenHerder-Thomas led a breakout session Monday during which people discussed clean-energy action ideas such as pushing cities and government agencies to install solar and energy-efficient components and pushing for more alternative transportation.

Other leaders talked about the importance of finding common ground with people with whom they may disagree. Ulla Nilsen of MN350 said a majority of people support action on climate, noting the importance of creating an emotional connection when discussing the topic.

“Imagine the number of people out there who are waiting to be asked, waiting to be engaged,” said Kate Jacobson, program director of MN350. “If we want to engage more and more people, we have to talk to each other.”