The Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change met Thursday to discuss their recommendations in the governor’s biennial budget, including an Office of Environmental Justice and funds for green job training and clean energy research.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, chair of the task force, thanked the task force for their hard work, which was recognized through Evers’ proposed investments to address climate change.
“Every Wisconsinite is paying for the cost of climate change,” Barnes said. “The health and wellbeing of every person in this state remains at risk and unfortunately many in our state have already been harmed and further risks continue to be imminent if we don’t take urgent action.”
Evers’ 2021-2023 biennial budget, which he proposed in February, includes recommendations from the climate change task force. Barnes focused on aspects of the budget including building resilience, clean energy and economy, innovative conservation and land stewardship, and cleaner and safer streets.
This included establishing a plan to assist municipalities and tribal nations to become carbon-free by 2050, but Barnes noted he would like to see the date moved up to 2035 under the new presidential administration.
“It is critical that Wisconsin takes the necessary and immediate steps to improve the state’s energy production,” Barnes said regarding energy and a clean economy.
The budget includes $500,000 in annual funding towards training for green jobs statewide and creating a $4 million grant for renewable and clean energy research.
The budget also includes a new Office of Environmental Justice, funding for local climate risk assessment and resilience plans, funding energy conservation projects within the UW System and requiring the Public Service Commission to consider the social cost of carbon.
In December, the task force released a report with 55 recommendations related to climate change across various areas of the state, which could be enacted through the budget, executive or agency action or legislation.
The task force also focused on environmental justice by improving collaboration with Native Nations through the new Office of Environmental Justice and requiring racial disparity impact studies for new development projects.
“We know that too many of our communities, particularly our lower income communities and communities of color, face injustice risk to health, economic well being and overall environmental impact as it relates to climate change,” Barnes said. “Too many individuals in Wisconsin are in danger of being exposed to air and water pollution.”
“In Wisconsin, the Sierra Club notes that working-class communities are subject to pipelines and their potential threats, and low-income communities are exposed to fracking, mining and hazardous waste. In 2016, Wisconsin received a failing grade in a report by the Center for Effective Government. The report analyzed how many people of color and low-income residents live within close proximity to dangerous chemical facilities,” the report notes.
Barnes also aims to connect people to local food systems through the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program, which aims to increase sales of Wisconsin agricultural products.
“This is probably the most ambitious agenda that we’ve had in the state as it relates to climate,” Barnes said. “I do believe that this hard work is going to benefit us all.”
State news editor