Life in Minneapolis, Minnesota invokes images of hockey pucks gliding across frozen ponds and giddy children clambering up massive snow piles. But someday soon that picture-perfect Minneapolis could soon exist only in people’s memories.

The City of Lakes Loppet, a traditional mid-winter event, has suffered moving locations and cancellations due to warm weather and lack of snow. Climate change also threatens the area’s northern hardwood forests and fishing in cold water lakes. And warmer temperatures are leading to more vector-borne diseases and invasive species like the Emerald Ash Borer—now on the verge of wiping out 21 percent of the area’s urban forest canopy. If that happens, it will exacerbate the urban heat island effect in Minneapolis, which is already 9° F warmer than surrounding areas on extremely hot days.  

Local leaders are responding to these threats with ambitious goals to curb its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And so far, they are meeting—and exceeding—those goals.

Minneapolis set goals of reducing emissions from citywide activities by 15 percent by 2015, 30 percent by 2025, and 80 percent or more by 2050. These commitments align with the climate actions that many other U.S. cities are undertaking through the Compact of Mayors. According to a June 2017 report, the city decreased its 2015 emissions by nearly 18 percent compared to 2006, beating its first target.

To achieve its 2025 reduction goals, the city aims to reduce energy use by 17 percent, generate 10 percent of its electricity from local, renewable sources, increase bike commuting, double transit ridership, support walkable neighborhoods, reduce waste generation and recycle half of all waste, and much more. In 2013, Minneapolis became the first Midwestern city to pass an ordinance that requires commercial and public buildings of a certain size to benchmark and report their energy and water consumption. A year later, Minneapolis joined with two utility companies to work on emissions reductions, making it the first city in the U.S. to establish such a public-private clean energy partnership.

Today, Minneapolis is taking steps to acquire 100 percent of electricity for city operations from renewable source. And this year, The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Minneapolis the 11th most energy efficient city in the nation.[ii] Their progress offers a guide to cities and states just beginning their journey to a clean energy, climate-resilient future.