City eyes climate resilience in comp plan

The City of Minneapolis has laid out dozens of steps it can take to become more resilient to the effects of climate change in its draft comprehensive plan, Minneapolis 2040.

City planners put forth the suggested actions, which include everything from incentivizing energy-efficiency improvements to improving the pedestrian environment, when they released the plan this past spring. Their hope is to help the city progress toward its climate goals, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

“The action steps are specific enough to make a commitment to doing something about it,” said Paul Mogush, principal project coordinator in the city’s Long Range Planning division. “They’re not going to be so specific as to name new programs or funding amounts, but it’s acknowledging the importance of doing more.”

State law requires municipalities in the Twin Cities to provide the Metropolitan Council with updated comprehensive plans every 10 years. The plans must include elements such as existing and future land-use maps, population forecasts and a discussion of future housing needs, among others.

The council doesn’t require any specific climate change-related actions as part of the plans, but it encourages municipalities to think about planning for the effects of climate change. Minneapolis city planners integrated potential actions into the plan in an effort to continue progressing toward the city’s goals.

“We know that cars are a part of the emissions problem, but buildings are a bigger part,” said Heather Worthington, director of long range planning. “So thinking about how we build our cities matters in terms of the environment and carbon emissions.”

14 climate goals

The Minneapolis City Council adopted 14 goals at the beginning of the process to draft Minneapolis 2040, including the goal of climate change resilience. The council wants the city to be resilient to the effects of climate change and diminishing natural resources by 2040, the goal says. It also wants the city to be on track to reach its 2050 greenhouse gas-reduction target.

Minneapolis hit an initial greenhouse gas-reduction goal in 2015, reducing emissions by 17.8 percent that year compared to a baseline year of 2006. But the city will need to take significant additional steps to reach the 80 percent goal, according to Minneapolis 2040.

The plan says that the city will need to “drastically” cut greenhouse gas emissions from buildings to hit the target. It notes that buildings accounted for 71 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, with commercial and industrial buildings accounting for about two-thirds of those emissions.

The plan says achieving such a cut will require a transition from relying solely on fossil fuel-derived natural gas for heating. It also suggests action steps to increase the energy efficiency of buildings and to encourage the use of renewable and carbon-free energy.

In addition, the plan says that the city will need to reduce automobile trips by 37 percent in order to hit its 2050 emissions goals. That will likely require more trips via walking, biking and transit.

Worthington stressed that there will always be cars in Minneapolis, noting the city was built for cars. But she said the city will be more sustainable to the extent it can incorporate different modes of travel, including walking, biking and transit.

City planners have put forth dozens of action steps the city can take to encourage biking, walking and transit riding, including improving access to goods and services via such methods. The plan says that residents in many parts of the city currently have no choice but to drive long distances to access goods and services. It designates additional areas for commercial uses in parts of the city where retail demand exceeds supply.

“Increasing retail options close to where people live will allow people the option of accessing daily needs without using a car,” the plan says. “This will help achieve the City’s greenhouse gas reduction goal, improve health through increased physical activity, and enrich the quality of life in our communities.”

Retail expansion already appears to be changing peoples’ travel behavior in some areas of the city. At the newly opened Trader Joe’s downtown, for example, one store employee estimated that at least 60 percent of the crew there walks or bikes to work. Downtown East resident Cherie Randall, who has typically drive to Lunds & Byerlys in Northeast to do her grocery shopping, walked the two blocks to the store on a recent weekday morning.

“We’re thrilled,” Randall said of the store’s opening. “Here I can buy as needed and prepare more fresh meals.”

A ‘defining challenge’

Minneapolis 2040 also includes steps the city could take to improve its physical environment, stormwater infrastructure and energy and transportation systems. Those steps could include incentivizing shared mobility options, encouraging the creation of publicly accessible open spaces and plazas and encouraging and requiring reductions in the amount of impervious surface area.

Overall, the plan says that climate change is a “defining challenge” of this decade and the century. It adds that “we will face threats to our economic livelihood, public health, and supplies of food, fresh water and power” without rapid action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

More about climate change and the plan can be found at