Michigan commits to carbon neutrality by 2050

The Great Lake State sets a goal for itself and an example for its neighbors: achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. 

In 2017, Michiganders gathered for a climate rally in Ann Arbor, MI. Credit: Dawn Wilbert.
Mary Katherine Moore

On Sept. 23, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that she was committing Michigan to a 100 percent carbon neutral economy by 2050. 

Gov. Whitmer announced the state’s commitment as part of Michigan’s Healthy Climate Plan, signing an executive order and a companion executive directive that, together, include:

  • by 2025, an interim goal of 28 percent emissions reductions below 1999 emission levels,

  • by 2040, a requirement that all new state-owned buildings or significant renovations at state facilities be carbon neutral, and

  • by 2040, that government facilities’ greenhouse gas emissions from electricity and heating decrease by 40 percent. 

What carbon neutral means and why it matters

Achieving carbon neutrality, also known as net zero emissions, means that Michigan’s economy would emit no more carbon pollution into the environment than it offsets. As Environment Michigan State Director Nathan Murphy said in a statement on Gov. Whitmer’s action, “This new goal will not only drive Michigan toward a cleaner, healthier future, but we also hope it will encourage governors and legislators in neighboring states to jump on the bandwagon.”

Yet Nathan also added, “As Michigan’s leaders work to put this plan into action, they must remember that clean and renewable energy resources — such as solar, wind and efficiency and conservation measures — should take front and center. These options provide the best ways to protect both public health and the state’s green spaces and fragile coastline.” 

Seven states have committed to 100 percent renewable or zero carbon electricity, which allows no burning of fossil fuels to generate power. Other states, including Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, have considered proposals to commit to 100 percent renewable energy economy-wide.

According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in order to limit global warming to 1.5ºC, global net carbon emissions must fall 45 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050, with any remaining emissions offset by removing carbon dioxide from the air. Yet thus far, such carbon removal efforts have proven complicated, costly and ineffective. That’s a major reason why Environment Michigan supports a full transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

What environmental advocates and activists did to win

Environment Michigan’s Murphy and other advocates pushed the Whitmer administration to act boldly on climate change.

Environment Michigan is also part of the national network of state environmental organizations that have led the campaigns for state-level commitments to 100 percent renewable or zero carbon electricity in California, New Mexico, Washington State, Maine and Virginia, as well as on such college campuses as Cornell University, the University of California, Boston University and Vanderbilt University. These campaigns, in turn, are building from the foundation laid by more modest goals adopted at our urging in 25 states for solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy over the past few decades.  

What’s next for clean energy and climate action in Michigan

Environment Michigan will continue to advocate for policies that will put the state on track to achieve 100 percent renewable energy. Meanwhile, our Destination: Zero Carbon campaign is calling for all new cars to be electric by 2035, all new buses to be electric by 2030, and to double the numbers of people who travel by foot, bike or public transit by 2030.

Learn more 

Read more about Michigan’s commitment. 

View the Executive Order.

View the Executive Directive.  


Mary Katherine Moore