5 Midwest States Poised to Take Climate Action

September 20, 2019 | 11:10 am
Jim D. Woodward/Flickr
Jessica Collingsworth
Former Contributor

Due to climate change the Midwest will experience worsened health conditions and the emergence of new health threats, resulting in economic impacts estimated in the billions of dollars by mid-century. Extreme heat events (days with a heat index above 100°F) are projected to increase from an average of 6 days per year to 53 days per year by the end of the century. We must act now to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.

Despite federal inaction, states across the region are taking matters into their own hands and introducing 100% renewable or clean energy standards and goals. With Climate Week around the corner let’s look at five Midwest states poised to take action.


Earlier this year the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (of which UCS is a member) introduced the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), that requires 100% carbon free electricity by 2030 and 100% renewable energy by 2050.  The bill builds on the success of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) that passed in 2016, and quadruples the size of FEJA’s Solar for All Program. It also  creates workforce hubs that provide training across the state and expands energy efficiency gas and electric programs, which save Illinois residents money. The Electric Vehicle (EV) Access for All program will ensure EVs are accessible to all residents including those where car ownership in not an option through EV car sharing and carbon-free commuting through electric transport.

CEJA is gaining momentum with support from the majority of state Senatorsrecent polling shows that Illinois residents are overwhelmingly in favor of the bill.


This winter State Senator Zach Wahls introduced SF 312 which directed the Iowa Energy Center to develop a strategic plan for achieving 80% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050. The plan focuses on the development of renewable energy production in the state, including renewable fuel production, infrastructure improvements to facilitate increased capacity and new technology, and increased energy efficiency.

While the bill has yet to move forward in the legislature, Iowa is well on its way to achieving an interim goal of 80% renewables by 2030. Wind power already made up 34% of the state’s electricity generation in 2018. As Iowa has the oldest renewable energy standard in the US—created in 1983 with a modest goal of achieving 105 MW of generating capacity for investor owned utilities—the state’s RPS could use an upgrade to further encourage Iowa’s clean energy progress.


Last session State Rep. Yousef Rabhi introduced a HB 6466 that would ramp up the state’s renewable energy standard from 15% by 2021 to 100% by 2050. Rep. Rabhi stated that strengthening Michigan’s commitment to renewable energy is vital to the health of citizens and the state’s economy. As renewable technology becomes increasingly affordable, the state can invest in good jobs in the state, save consumers money, and protect Michigan’s air and water. Michigan’s legislature should take up this important policy this session.

In addition, in February, Governor Whitmer created an Office of Climate and Energy within the Department of  Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), which will be tasked with coordinating efforts across state government to address climate change. In June, Dr. Brandy Brown was appointed to lead the office.


This spring, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan introduced their One Minnesota Path to Clean Energy, which is a suite of policy proposals that will set the state on a path to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. The plan includes provisions to assist workers and communities affected by the transition away from fossil fuels, prioritizes local job creation, and raises Minnesota’s Energy Efficiency Resource Standard. The policy proposals build on the success of the state’s current RPS  that was passed in 2007, which requires utilities to get at least 25% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025. The state has already met this target; it’s time to increase the standard.

Walz’s plan was introduced in the Legislature (HF 1956, Clean Energy First Act) by Rep. Jamie Long, and requires utilities to prioritize energy efficiency and renewable energy first before fossil fuels, when seeking to replace current or build new generation. The legislation didn’t pass this session but Minnesota Democrats have vowed to increase efforts next session to pass an ambitious clean energy bill.  Next year is not a budget year, so legislators will have more time to focus on such legislation.


Last month, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order creating the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy and setting a goal of ensuring all electricity consumed within the state is 100% carbon-free by 2050. The new state office will develop a clean energy plan that will aid Wisconsin in adapting to and mitigating climate change and work to ensure the state is fulfilling the carbon reductions goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. Governor Evers’ executive order further promotes clean energy workforce trainings in partnership with state universities and nonprofit workforce programs and provides measures to develop energy efficiency and clean energy standards for all new and existing state facilities.

Moving forward in the region

Governors in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have also taken the important step of joining the US Climate Alliance. Through this action, these state leaders have advanced their commitment towards implementing policies that fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement, to track and report progress to the global community, and to accelerate new and existing policies to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy deployment.

Overall, Midwest states have taken admirable steps in the fight against climate change, but more needs to be done. There is an urgent need to act on climate change by decarbonizing our economy, and a critical step in achieving that is passing state legislation transitioning states to 100% clean and carbon free electricity. Now is the time to hold your state legislators and Governors accountable and call on them to act on climate. But how do we do that?

Let’s strike

Today, in preparation for the UN Climate Summit, young people and adults will strike across the world to demand transformative action be taken to address the climate crisis.

In order to be heard we must be loud. Join us by finding a climate strike near you or start your own.