Thinking about tomorrow

A state panel is looking at ways to reduce greenhouse gases and plan for the future.

Minnesota recently made itself a leader in the renewable energy arena by passing a strong standard during last year’s legislative session. Now, a panel assembled by Gov. Tim Pawlenty is looking at other ways to help the state reduce its carbon emissions.

The Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Committee was developed to come up with a set of policy recommendations to help the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The group is comprised of diverse individuals representing environmental, business and community concerns.

Considering that about 27 percent of Minnesota’s greenhouse emissions come from transportation, the panel has been looking closely at ways to change the ways Minnesotans commute and travel.

The Metropolitan Council expects one million new Twin Cities residents by 2030, so smarter transportation policies and development will be essential to keeping our environment clean and our roads uncongested. And while the panel is considering drastic measures such as fees to discourage driving, new policies should especially focus on smart urban development and mass transit.

The panel’s recommendations will be introduced in a series of bills in the state legislature this spring. Options are still being deliberated, and it is unclear what policies will be sent forward.

Regardless of what the panel finds, we still need our legislators and governor to take leadership on this issue. Legislation should contain real benchmarks and plans. Smart growth takes foresight, and we are now in the perfect position to not only address climate change, but also improve standards of living. With a rapidly-growing Twin Cities area, we need to make sure that growth is as sustainable as possible.

We have taken a lead on renewable energy, and this panel fills in another part of the puzzle in maintaining Minnesota’s environment. Our state is taking a leading position, and we must follow through; we will all reap the benefits.