Whitmer calls for largest climate investment in MI history

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at her Aug. 30 speechIn a rare midyear address to the state on Aug. 30, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer set a new standard for Michigan: making major climate investments a priority.

Days after millions of Michiganders suffered from extreme thunderstorms and tornadoes, Gov. Whitmer called upon lawmakers to pass four landmark pieces of climate change legislation. She called for the state's utilities to run on 100% renewable energy and to reform where that energy's infrastructure could be built. She also called for utility company reforms, asking lawmakers to increase energy efficiency requirements and to give the Michigan Public Service Commission more power to hold investor-owned utilities accountable for climate resiliency and equity in their planning.

Carlee Knott, climate & energy policy coordinator"If Whitmer's call is answered, it would be the largest climate investment in our state's history," said Carlee Knott, climate and energy policy coordinator for the Michigan Environmental Council. "It would bring cleaner air, safer weather, and more affordable utility bills to Michigan's 10 million residents, especially those who have historically suffered the most."

Knott said Gov. Whitmer's policies would virtually end greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector, the top source of the pollutant. The policies would also prime the other most polluting sectors of society—vehicles, housing, and industry—to be run by 100% renewable-powered electricity.

Furthermore, Knott said, Gov. Whitmer's calls for utility reforms would bring more affordable energy to all but especially those who have long been denied it.

"It's been seven years since Michigan enacted broad clean energy reforms, and those changes were nowhere near the level needed for impactful climate action," Knott said. "Now, we have leaders who have said they will not compromise on our future, and we have more climate advocates than ever before who will make sure that happens. The time to act on the climate crisis and establish Michigan as a climate leader is now, and Gov. Whitmer has heard us." 

The policies in Gov. Whitmer's speech mirror the clean energy priorities the Environmental Council and its 90 member groups set in late 2022 to advocate for. Knott and others have worked all year to make them reality.

The foundation for such landmark calls for climate action was laid before Gov. Whitmer's speech. In spring 2022, she announced the MI Healthy Climate Plan, a roadmap toward carbon neutrality influenced by citizen experts. Earlier this week, her environmental department launched an AmeriCorps effort to see the plan through. And earlier this summer, lawmakers introduced legislation to power Michigan with 100% renewable energy