Since the Biden-Harris administration entered office earlier this year, the United States has seen renewed vigor for climate action at the federal level. That federal action has been matched with an urgency to promote bold, increased global efforts for climate as well, which the Biden-Harris administration emphasized while hosting the Leaders Summit on Climate in April. Strong federal leadership on climate that prioritizes clean energy and energy-related economic development policies is encouraging to Fresh Energy, largely because it sets the tone for both local and international climate cooperation.
That’s why we were thrilled that Fresh Energy’s science policy director J. Drake Hamilton was invited to attend the United Kingdom’s (UK) “Road to COP26: Minnesota Climate Action” event in St. Paul in June. The event was convened in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP), hosted by the UK this year, that will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 through November 12, 2021. J. Drake Hamilton will also represent Fresh Energy and Minnesota at COP26—her sixth time attending the international conference.
On June 17, 2021, Alan Gogbashian, British Consul General for Chicago—who oversees the UK’s engagement with the U.S. across the Midwest—welcomed an invite-only crowd of 75 to celebrate Minnesota’s long and successful history of investing in climate action, including investments in energy efficiency and the landmark Next Generation Energy Act of 2007. Minnesota has long been a leader in climate innovation, and, according to the Consul General, the work of Fresh Energy and our clean energy partners across the state to help lead the charge does not go unnoticed. Specifically, Consul General Gogbashian congratulated the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Walz for passing the bipartisan Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act this session, a true standout across the United States. “Minnesota, thank you for your forward-thinking strategy and hard work,” added the British Ambassador to the United States, Karen Pierce. “The benefits of tackling climate change are fundamentally in the interest of all of us: cleaner air, healthier communities, sustainable economic growth, energy security, and a safer, more stable climate.”
Other speakers from the stage included Jason Weller, Vice President of Land O’ Lakes subsidiary Truterra; Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey; Doug Baker, President of Ecolab; and J. Drake Hamilton, senior director of science policy at Fresh Energy. Representatives from several Minnesota-based companies, including 3M, Ecolab, Cargill, C.H. Robinson, Medtronic, Xcel Energy, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), and the Science Museum of Minnesota, were also present.
Speaking from the podium, Fresh Energy’s J. Drake Hamilton emphasized the need for urgency when it comes to federal climate action: “The United States has committed to the world to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions of at least 50 to 52 percent by 2030. Without the 100 percent Clean Electricity Standard written by U.S. Senator for Minnesota Tina Smith, we will not meet our commitment in time.” She added, “Midwestern states emit the most carbon regionally of all the other regions in the U.S. We are responsible for 32 percent of the nation’s emissions; ranked globally, the Midwestern states would come out 6th among top global emitters, after Russia and above Japan.”
As senior director of science policy, J.’s work at Fresh Energy is structured around creating local, regional, national, and global awareness and consensus about the urgent climate action that science requires of us. As Fresh Energy and partners continue to shape and drive bold policy solutions to achieve equitable carbon-neutral economies, we’re grateful to be joined by several major companies, including four on the Fortune 500 list, who have made ambitious climate plans and commitments ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference later this year.
Dr. Gayle Schueller, chief sustainability officer at 3M, announced that the Maplewood, Minn.-based business has reduced its GHG emissions by 71 percent so far and has committed to an 85 percent reduction in its emissions by 2030. With 3 million customers in 173 countries, Ecolab—whose headquarters sit one block away from Fresh Energy’s downtown St. Paul office—also declared big climate commitments: president Doug Baker said that the company will reduce its CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030, and by 100 percent by 2050. And Wayzata-based Cargill sustainability director for climate Dr. Greg Downing announced that the company is working to reduce GHG emissions across its global supply chain by 30 percent by 2030.
Brittany Bram, C.H. Robinson’s principal sustainability program manager, announced that the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based logistics and supply chain business will reduce its global emissions 40 percent by 2025—and that the company is now halfway to that goal. The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) will reduce its GHG emissions 80 percent by 2030, according to vice president Naomi Pesky.
And Patrick Hamilton, director of global change initiatives for the Science Museum of Minnesota, announced that the St. Paul museum beloved by adults and kids alike has achieved its goal of cutting carbon emissions by 50 percent nine years ahead of schedule, exceeding its 2030 goal. Now, the Museum has shifted focus to reach 100 percent carbon neutrality, coupled with efforts to encourage its cultural institution partners across the country to follow suit. “We look forward to working with you before COP26, during COP26, and after COP26 on the change we all want to achieve,” Patrick said. You can watch the full Minnesota Climate Action event here.
Climate leadership from businesses and the federal government is just the tip of the iceberg—the clock is ticking for all of us to act for climate with the determination, resources, and willpower needed to slow the Earth’s warming and respond to the effects of climate change. We can’t stop now! Join Fresh Energy’s listserv to ensure all pre- and post-COP26 updates reach your inbox, including a few opportunities to connect virtually with J. herself! Stay tuned for more information.