Wisconsin Legislators Take on Climate Change
Kerry BehelerWI Green Fire, December 14, 2019
Climate change is part of our daily lives: Wisconsin is warmer and wetter than in the past and its residents are experiencing more frequent extreme storms that cause flooding, damage roads and destroy forests.
Responding to Wisconsin’s changing climate would become a public policy priority through a package of legislative proposals, known as Forward on Climate, recently introduced by Representative Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) and a number of other Legislators. The package contains a study creating “green banks” with private and public capital to finance clean, renewable energy generation and storage technologies and speed up the transition to a 100% carbon-free energy system. Such “green banks” are operating in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Maryland and California.
- Financially support farmers who voluntarily take steps to reduce fossil fuel use while changing planting practices to capture more carbon from the air and store it in grasses and soils to mitigate the impacts of greenhouse gases.
- Finance weatherization and energy efficiency improvements in state schools to reduce energy use and costs and help make them more resilient to climate change.
- Require the Public Service Commission to consider the full social and environmental impacts and costs of carbon emissions before approving new utility-scale plants burning fossil fuels to generate energy. Rep. Neubauer says, “This bill allows us to recognize the economic reality that renewable energy is cheaper and healthier than fossil fuels.”
Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF) believes the science on climate change solidly supports aggressive efforts to reduce carbon emissions, capture and store atmospheric carbon, and help speed our transition to renewable energy sources.
The Forward On Climate legislative package would establish practical policy initiatives that can be acted on now.
Numerous Wisconsin cities, towns, counties and native tribes already are taking independent actions that allow our social, economic, and political systems to effectively adapt to our altered climate by becoming more resilient.
Even so, coordinated state-wide actions and energy planning are lacking. The Forward On Climate package can be the start of a coordinated response.
Rep. Neubauer is a member of Governor Tony Evers’ newly created Climate Change Task Force. This task force will soon begin meeting to develop Wisconsin strategies for responding to the climate crisis. As Rep. Neubauer says, “It’s time for us to get to work on Wisconsin-centered solutions to climate change.”
In a recent opinion piece published online at Madison.com, Rep Neubauer says, “Wisconsinites send over $14 billion each year out of our state to pay for the fossil fuels that power our communities. That’s money that could be kept right here in Wisconsin.”
“We can invest some of the $14 billion we send to other states and build renewable energy, make our infrastructure more efficient and resilient, and create family-supporting jobs in communities like mine across our state, where racial and economic disparities remain high.”
“If we work together, we can invest in our family farms, our children and in our urban and rural communities to build a cleaner, more sustainable and more equitable economy.”
WGF will be tracking these Forward on Climate proposals closely in the upcoming legislative session. Currently these proposals are just drafts, called Legislative Reference Bureau proposals, and have not been introduced as actual bills. They will likely be introduced as bills in the next few weeks. Watch for updates and bill numbers in future messages. We will continue to work with legislators of both parties on policy responses to climate change. WGF recommends actions which best serve the needs of Wisconsin citizens into the future.
Kerry Beheler co-chairs Wisconsin’s Green Fire’s Energy Policy Work Group