MADISON, Wis. (CN) – In an aggressive push to address the crises brought about by climate change, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order Friday aimed at powering the Badger State with 100% clean, carbon-free energy by 2050.
The order charges the state Department of Administration with creating a new Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, which will be tasked with achieving 100% carbon-free energy consumption by 2050 in partnership with other state agencies and utilities, easing the more than $12 billion the state spends each year importing fuels derived from coal, natural gas and petroleum.
“A transition to a clean energy economy will generate thousands of family-supporting jobs in Wisconsin,” Evers said in a statement Friday. “Our state has a responsibility to current and future generations of Wisconsinites to act to prevent continuing damage to our climate and to invest in solutions that help to mitigate the changes that have already occurred.”
Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes echoed the governor’s call to action, charging that the state “must strive for economic and environmental justice.”
Barnes called the executive order “a step that promises an opportunity to create cleaner and safer jobs to stimulate the economy, to once again have an abundant and prosperous agriculture industry, and the opportunity to restore and enjoy the beautiful natural resources our state has to offer.”
Public Service Commission Chairperson Becky Cameron Valcq also stressed the economic aspect of the action, saying that the move is not only ultimately good for the planet “but also crucial for our state’s economy, our workers, our innovators and our children.”
One of the components of the order would promote clean energy workforce training in coordination with the University of Wisconsin System, Wisconsin Technical College System, and both private and non-profit workforce development programs and labor organizations.
All new and existing state facilities, office buildings and complexes would have to meet energy efficiency, sustainability and renewable energy standards under the order.
It also seeks to ensure that Wisconsin is fulfilling the carbon reduction goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, which President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of in 2017.
The order cited the perils of extreme weather caused by climate change as part of the impetus for action. It quoted recent data from the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change stating that statewide average temperatures are likely to warm by six to seven degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of the century.
Evers’ order also cited a Union of Concerned Scientists study stating that by 2050, Wisconsin could see two weeks per year of dangerous heat indexes above 100 degrees, analogous to southern U.S. states like Alabama and South Carolina.
Health concerns caused by climate change are also an issue, including asthma attacks, pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, chronic and acute bronchitis, neurological defects and cancer.
Clean Wisconsin, a state environmental organization, issued its own statement Friday applauding the governor’s initiative.
Amber Meyer Smith, the group’s vice president of programs and government relations, called the order “a game-changer for Wisconsin on multiple fronts.”
“Curbing climate change is a daunting task, and this action by the governor gives the state a path forward to cut carbon emissions while boosting our economy, creating jobs, and protecting the health of our kids,” she said. “It starts the needed conversation about how we will reduce our climate footprint and promote clean energy statewide.”
Clean Wisconsin noted that Evers signed onto the U.S. Climate Alliance in February, which also commits the state to carbon reduction goals in the coming years.
The group also said the measures in Friday’s executive order were in Evers’ original budget proposal, but were carved out of the final budget by the Legislature’s GOP-majority finance committee. Evers will not have as many options to negotiate the details of his order as he would have had he gotten its provisions through the state budget.
State Republicans, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R- Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R- Juneau, had not offered a public reaction to Evers’ order as of Friday afternoon.Follow @@cnsjkelly
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