Red Wing

City of Red Wing creates plan to reduce emissions

August 2021

The City of Red Wing used funding from a Southeast CERT seed grant to develop a Climate Action Work Plan that will help the City reduce greenhouse gas emissions in ways that improve residents' quality of life.

Project lead Melissa Baartman shared their process and progress with us.

The benefits of this plan are not limited to the environment. Implementation of this plan will also provide our community with health and economic benefits, such as improved air quality, safer streets, reduced energy burden, cost savings and jobs.

Melissa Baartman, Red Wing Community and Economic Development

Setting goals for a healthy, vibrant town

The City of Red Wing’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2019, sets a bold goal: “to be the most healthy, vibrant town in the Midwest.” The Comprehensive Plan is built on five characteristics that are shared by thriving communities, including sustainability, health, accessibility, resiliency, and equity. To support these, one of the Comprehensive Plan’s goals is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2040.

That’s a big goal!

The next step is therefore figuring out how to get there, and that’s where the Climate Action Work Plan comes in. The Work Plan, with its 5-year time horizon, gives concrete steps that the City can start taking immediately to make progress toward their goal of 80% emissions reduction. It is also a clear statement that this is important. According to Melissa Baartman, Red Wing’s Community and Economic Development Facilitator, the Work Plan project “demonstrates the City’s commitment to climate action. Not only to the community, but the organization as well. It lets staff know that Council thinks this is important and gives it priority.”

Building on success

Red Wing is not a newcomer when it comes to community efforts around sustainability and quality of life. The city has achieved Step 5 in the Minnesota GreenStep program, has been awarded the “Silver” designation in the SolSmart program, and has been implementing its Green Wing Energy Action Plan. The Climate Action Work Plan builds on these existing efforts, as well as on other planning documents like the Strategic and Comprehensive Plans.

A “Climate Action Work Plan” is a shorter version of a Climate Action Plan. According to Baartman, the Work Plan “creates an actionable work plan to make near-term progress on long-term goals. By opting for a shorter plan, we were able to develop the plan in under nine months, spend significantly less than what a fall-scale plan would have cost, and start taking action sooner.”

The City contracted with the Great Plains Institute to complete the project, with the city’s Sustainability Commission acting as the primary decision-maker during the development of the plan. An existing conditions report and a greenhouse gas inventory provided key information for the Commission, which worked to identify community priorities on which the plan recommendations would be based.

Throughout the process, Councilmember Evan Brown, the Council Liaison to the Sustainability Commission - and a key champion for the project - kept the Council informed on the status of the Work Plan. After final revisions by the Sustainability Commission, the City Council unanimously adopted the Climate Action Work Plan on August 10, 2020.

What's in the Work Plan?

The Work Plan is a roadmap that shows actions the City can take over the next five years to move toward its overall emissions reduction goal. It starts with the existing conditions report and emissions inventory. These provide baselines against which the City can measure future progress.

The final section of the Work Plan focuses on five strategies: increasing building efficiency, renewable energy, and electric vehicles, while decreasing vehicle miles traveled and the quantity of solid waste incinerated. For each strategy, the work plan identifies implementation tools and resources, including tools to ensure inclusive stakeholder engagement, track progress, and inventory funding and technical assistance resources.

The Work Plan will help the City reduce emissions by 9% by 2025, with the largest portion of those reductions coming from more efficient buildings. This, combined with ongoing code enforcement for new construction and changes to Xcel Energy’s electricity grid mix, provide a 21% reduction over the next five years, a good start toward that 80% goal.

Many of the strategies outlined in the plan also have co-benefits: according to Baartman, “the benefits of this plan are not limited to the environment. Implementation of this plan will also provide our community with health and economic benefits, such as improved air quality, safer streets, reduced energy burden, cost savings and jobs.”

Climate action planning is just the beginning

Now as it comes time to implement the plan, first up is a Commercial Building Benchmarking and Transparency Policy that will help Red Wing with its building efficiency strategy. Each year, as the Work Plan is implemented, the Sustainability Commission will oversee an annual review of the plan to identify any adjustments needed. The City also looks forward to developing a resiliency plan that aligns with the Work Plan.

An important component of the next phase of this effort is continued community outreach. The Work Plan has its own page on the City website, and communications so far have also included social media outreach, a "Climate Action Work Plan 101" video, inclusion in the weekly City Beat newsletter, and virtual presentations. As Baartman says, “Having a plan makes it easier for the community to understand what we are trying to do and accomplish.”

I am very thankful to the CERTs team and this seed grant for helping Red Wing develop a CAWP. Having this seed grant made it that much easier to go and ask for the additional funding needed for the project.

Melissa Baartman

Clean Energy Focus: Climate Action Work Plan

SE CERT Seed Grant: $3,030

Total Project Cost: $14,967

Other Funds: city budget

Project Team: Melissa Baartman and Dan Rogness with City of Red Wing; Evan Brown, City of Red Wing Councilmember; Randy McLaughlin (Chair) and Joan Halgren (Vice Chair) of Red Wing Sustainability Commission; Abby Finis, Jessi Wyatt, and Jenna Greene with Great Plains Institute; Becky Alexander with LHB

People Involved and Reached: 568

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