To recapture Wisconsin’s capacity to lead in strategies that address climate change and clean energy, the Climate Forward report proposes five primary Pathways to Progress:
- increasing energy conservation and efficiency to help consumers save money and lessen the need for new power plants and transmission;
- expanding development and use of renewable energy to create local clean energy resources;
- enhancing transportation systems to provide more efficient and cost-effective options for people and products;
- managing forests, grasslands, and other living landscapes in ways to support natural processes that store carbon in plants and soils;
- encouraging business models that incorporate “whole business” strategies that embrace sustainability practices, learning and innovation, and encourageing citizen engagement.
Energy conservation and efficiency is the “first big step” given the substantial opportunity to reduce both energy demand and wasted energy. Practical actions include weatherizing and retrofitting residential and commercial buildings, installing advanced technologies such as LED lighting, using super-efficient design for new buildings, increasing efficiencies in manufacturing processes, and waste reduction.
Renewable energy is an essential part of the foundation to Wisconsin's road to a sustainable economy. By integrating locally available renewables into our economy, we engage a vast supply chain of local manufacturers, distributors and installers, farmers, builders, entrepreneurs, and related professional workers. Local renewable energy sources can provide Wisconsin, a state with no fossil or nuclear fuel reserves, with relatively clean, risk free, and low maintenance energy. These sources also help keep energy dollars circulating within Wisconsin and produce energy with a zero or low carbon impact. Expanding our commitment to renewables is one of the simplest ways we can develop more sustainable energy strategies for Wisconsin.
Transportation of both people and freight is responsible for about one third of greenhouse gas emissions. As a state heavily dependent on highways for our transportation, Wisconsin could make significant advances in reducing emissions by modernizing and diversifying our transportation systems, and providing more choices for mobility through designing walkable neighborhoods, and bike-friendly streets, as well as expanding regional transit and freight capacity. Rethinking transportation has the potential to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but to also reduce congestion, make better use of state and federal transportation budgets, and improve business productivity.
Natural carbon storage is as old as photosynthesis, with green plants converting carbon in carbon dioxide gas into plant fiber, where it remains until it is digested, burned, or decays. Trees, grasses, and other plants are natural storage systems, as are many kinds of healthy soils that contain rich levels of organic matter, such as natural wetlands. With extensive forests, as well as grasslands, wetlands, pastures, and other perennial covers, Wisconsin’s living landscape can play a role in sustaining and growing our capacity to support natural carbon storage.
Leadership & Citizenship includes learning from those already in the vanguard, and engaging Wisconsin citizens to be part of the solution. To step into a leadership role in clean energy and climate solutions, we need to learn from those in the vanguard and identify opportunities for wider adoption, or needs for mid-course corrections. For the public to effectively engage in decisions about our state’s future, they need to be informed and have the resources to think critically about the challenges and choices we will face. Education and communications about climate and energy topics will be essential.