Minneapolis city officals targets climate justice in updated climate action plan

Minneapolis’ Green Zones, its most diverse areas which are affected by pollution, are the city’s focus on climate equity.


Image by Graphic by Mary Ellen Ritter

The plan builds off of a 2013 program and focuses more on climate equity.

by Jack O'Connor and Victoria Zamorano

City officials hope the Minneapolis Climate Equity Action Plan will promote climate equity, even as activists criticize the lack of funding and planning to achieve its goals.

The 101-page document, drafted in late April, lays out the climate future of Minneapolis by setting guidelines for improving air and water quality, promoting more green energy and creating more green areas in the city.

Officials outlined in the plan how the city will “significantly reduce climate pollution by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050.”

This plan updates the 2013 Minneapolis Climate Action Plan, which focused on generating clean energy sources and increasing the recycling rate. While the updated plan is similar to its predecessor, the newer version places a greater emphasis on climate equity.

Minneapolis Health Department Director of Sustainability Kim Havey said the original climate plan did not do enough for climate justice.

“We did not spend a lot of time thinking about how we are going to mitigate the impacts on our frontline environmental justice communities,” Havey said.

By focusing on the north and south “Green Zones” of Minneapolis — areas with high concentrations of pollution and people of color — the city hopes to reduce pollution disparities. 

The south Green Zone consists of the neighboring Phillips and Cedar-Riverside communities, where more than a third of residents are foreign-born. The north Green Zone is in northeast Minneapolis where more than half of the residents are people of color.

Havey said this updated plan prioritizes impacted communities over the numbers of climate pollution.

“We are trying to center people into the goals and strategies,” Havey said. “Not just greenhouse gas emissions as our goals.”

Over a six-month period, the city took comments from impacted residents to receive feedback on the plan, according to Havey. The Minneapolis City Council held a public comment period on June 7 when many residents issued concerns about the timeline and funding for the plan and wanted the city to make a larger economic commitment to it.

Community Power Director Rebekah Doyle said the city is not doing enough to ensure the plan will succeed. 

“The goals are good, but it’s not enough,” Doyle said to the council on June 7. “While this plan is more robust than its 2013 predecessor, without implementation plans and accountability, it could face the same fate.”

MN 350 Volunteer Michelle Hensley said while the plan looks good, there are still lingering doubts about whether the city will follow through.

“Everyone is worried Minneapolis isn’t going to step up,” Hensley said. “They’ll talk a nice game like they always do, but especially that they’re not going to step up with the money.”

City staff will use the final public comments to present the final version of the plan to the city council at their July 12 Public Health and Safety meeting. The council will vote on whether to approve at the July 20 meeting.

Havey said the city’s long-term desire is to make Minneapolis a leader in sustainability.

“Our goal is to make the city of Minneapolis the most sustainable city in North America if not the world,” Havey said. “We just need the planning and will to make it happen.”