January 11, 2022

Five climate justice stories to watch in 2022

(St. Paul, MN) — Floods, wildfires, drought. Stark warnings from the scientific community. Rising costs from increasingly powerful and erratic natural disasters. 2021 marked a grim reminder of the future we face if the world does not stop rising global temperatures and in particular address the disproportionate impact the climate crisis has on BIPOC and low-income communities. Minnesota took modest steps forward in some areas last year and big steps backward in others. Establishment of Clean Car standards and passage of the ECO Act (a much-needed and nation-leading update of Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program) were positive steps. Completion of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline was a massive step in the wrong direction.

In 2022 climate will again be front and center as Minnesota grapples with a stubborn pandemic and attacks on our democratic system of government. Here are five climate justice stories to watch in Minnesota this year.

1. Minnesota’s lawsuit against the fossil fuel industry

In 2020, Attorney General Keith Ellison brought a landmark suit against the fossil fuel industry, modeled after the Big Tobacco litigation of the ‘90s, suing for damages stemming from a long-running fraud perpetrated against Minnesotans.  As early as the 1960s fossil fuel companies knew full well the damage their products were doing to the planet, yet nonetheless engaged in widespread marketing campaigns to push the lie that fossil fuels were safe. Over the past two years Big Oil has used various legal tactics to slow the case, and the suit is currently stayed while an appeal is pending before the federal 8th Circuit Court. However if an appeals court decision is not reached by August the district court will reevaluate the stay.

2. 100 percent clean energy

In 2021 Gov. Tim Walz and climate-champion lawmakers pushed a set of policy proposals that will lead Minnesota to 100 percent clean energy in the state’s electricity sector by 2040. Climate deniers in the state Senate blocked the legislation even though two-thirds of Minnesotans support such a shift, including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. With such massive public support the question remains whether the governor, who is up for re-election in November, will continue the push for an equitable clean energy future.

3. Federal action on climate

The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed in October will send nearly $7 billion to Minnesota to upgrade its roads, bridges, airports, and wastewater treatment systems. It will also send $68 million to install electric vehicle chargers. While the federal money is significant, action on the Build Back Better agenda and its focus on climate solutions has stalled. Sen. Joe Manchin has said he is open to dealing on individual issues, climate being one of them. Whether Congress can pull itself together and pass meaningful climate legislation in 2022 will go a long way in determining whether America sets itself on a course to successfully deal with the climate challenge.

4. The EV revolution rolls on

The transportation sector is the biggest contributor of carbon pollution in Minnesota, and 2021 was the year of electric vehicles. Major auto manufacturers announced they would cease building gas-powered cars within 20 years and  introduced dozens of new electric vehicle models. Many states became Clean Car states, including Minnesota which became the first state in the Midwest, by adopting stricter auto emissions standards and requiring dealers to carry more electric vehicles. Challenges and opportunities still remain to build out EV infrastructure, particularly in greater MN, and create incentives for consumers and dealers to buy and sell more electric vehicles. Legislation at both the state and federal level could go a long way either to hasten or slow Minnesota’s transition to cleaner vehicles.

5. Will Minnesotans vote with the climate in mind?

The 2022 midterm elections will be pivotal for Minnesota. The governor’s office, every constitutional office, and every state House and Senate seat will be up for grabs in November. As the political transformation of both Republican and Democratic parties deepens, the suburbs and regional centers like St. Cloud and Rochester will be where control of state government is decided. Whether these voters go to the polls with climate on their minds could be the difference between a second term for the governor, as well as the Legislature’s ability to pass the kind of transformational climate justice policy that states like Illinois and Massachusetts have already passed. Without that kind of strong leadership, Minnesota risks falling further into the middle of the pack on building an equitable clean energy future for all.


ABOUT: MN350 Action is the advocacy arm of MN350 and the political home for Minnesotans working to realize climate justice and racial justice through systemic change.

CONTACT: Brett Benson, MN350 Action Deputy Director, (651) 368-1226