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Duluth councilor, state senator urge action on stalled federal climate change plan

Sen. Jennifer McEwen and Duluth City Councilor Mike Mayou held a virtual news conference Thursday to push senators to vote in favor of a $550 billion spending plan that aims to address climate change.

Waves crash against the boulder barrier protecting the newly reconstructed Lakewalk on Nov. 11 in Duluth. Local officials attribute climate change to the ongoing need for repairs to the pedestrian trail.
Samantha Erkkila / File / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — A pair of local officials on Thursday called for immediate action on climate change and urged federal lawmakers to approve a sweeping plan to address it.

State Sen. Jennifer McEwen, DFL-Duluth, and Duluth City Councilor Mike Mayou held a virtual news conference Thursday at which they and other speakers stressed the environmental hazards posed by the gradual warming of Earth’s atmosphere and urged U.S. senators to approve $550 billion worth of federal spending to limit the effects of climate change.

Jen McEwen.jpg
Sen. Jen McEwen

“In our community of Duluth, we really are queued into the need to take urgent action on the climate crisis,” McEwen said.

Mayou noted that Duluth’s Lakewalk has needed to be repaired and reinforced several times in recent years after severe storms, which he chalked up to climate change, and recalled the effect smoke from a wildfire last year had on his asthma.

“I know in California, it's more of a daily reality, but it's starting to become a daily reality for everyone across the country and across the world right now,” Mayou said. “It's tough when you live in an outdoor city like Duluth, where we love to get out and recreate, enjoy our great lake, enjoy all the great parks and spaces we have, that you can't even go outside on a daily basis.”


Mike Mayou

McEwen also highlighted a United Nations report that concluded limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be “beyond reach” without immediate and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

That $550 billion is a portion of the $2.2 trillion “ Build Back Better ” act that was approved by the U.S. House in November, but has since stalled in the U.S. Senate. That money would be intended to lure business and industry toward wind, solar and other “green” resources; offer tax credits to people who buy electric vehicles or install solar panels on their homes; help pay for more energy-efficient buildings; and fund carbon capture research, among other efforts. The broader goal is to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030.

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Gusty days in Duluth have doubled in recent years.

J. Drake Hamilton, the senior director of science policy at Fresh Energy, a St. Paul-based nonprofit advocate for “carbon-neutral economies,” claimed on Thursday that the money could create tens of thousands of jobs in Minnesota and Wisconsin and save residents money on their utility bills.

And Dr. Joel Charles, a family medicine specialist and a member of Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action, said approving “strong climate investments” would immediately and profoundly help his patients’ health, claiming that fossil fuel pollution causes stillbirths, asthma, cancer and a host of other problems.

Hamilton said she hopes the climate provisions in the bill will be debated in the next few months.

“This needs to pass,” she said. “It is essential.”

You can reach Joe Bowen at 218-720-4172 or jbowen@duluthnews.com .

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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