Michigan welcomes federal unity on climate change


A wind farm in Michigan. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • A wind farm in Michigan.

President Joe Biden's global climate summit could be a turning point in the fight for climate action.

Forty heads of state are expected at the virtual event today, which coincides with Earth Day.

Along with re-establishing the U.S.' role as a global climate leader, Biden is expected to announce emission-reduction targets that are expected to create new jobs, cut carbon pollution, and expand clean energy.

Simone Lightfoot, a former board member of the Ann Arbor Public School Board of Education and an Air Force veteran, is excited states such as Michigan will have a federal partner working together to create a clean-energy economy.

"We haven't always had the cleanest industries that have funded our state," Lightfoot observed. "They've been quite high-pollutant industries, if you will. And so it's important, of course, that we make that transition. Yes, there's the need, and I think all of us agree: The 'how' is what requires all hands on deck."

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order in 2020 committing the state to reduce emissions by 28% by 2025 and to be carbon-neutral in all sectors by 2050.

While the previous administration openly questioned the science on climate change, Biden has made the issue a priority, and recently restored U.S. participation in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Biden's infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan, also includes investments in clean-energy generation.

Lightfoot contended the plan will help ensure a just transition for workers in the fossil-fuel sector, noting it directs at least 40% of investments to communities of color and others disproportionately impacted by pollution.

"How they get that done, the politics and methodology, making sure that it gets into communities that are at the front line and fence line of all of this environmental justice concern and infrastructure need, that's a whole other conversation," Lightfoot acknowledged. "But happy with the goals, of course. Would always love more, but am very realistic."

Michigan had 125,000 clean energy jobs in 2019, with more than 57% of them in manufacturing.

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