Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change Report

The Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, established in 2019, included a broad array of stakeholders and conferred with people from across the state to identify, examine, and include strategies to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience to climate change impacts. The task force issued its report in December 2020, which identifies 55 strategies across 9 sectors: Climate justice and equity; Energy; Transportation; Agriculture; Resilient Systems; Clean economy; Education; Food systems; and Forestry. Many of these recommendations are designed to help build resilience across the state.

The report finds that temperatures will rise in Wisconsin and precipitation, including extreme storms, is likely to increase. The decade of the 2010s included several one-in-500- and one-in-1,000-year extreme storms as well as natural disasters that disproportionately harmed low-income communities.

 

 The Task Force made environmental justice a focus of its work, and includes information upfront in the report related to environmental justice, climate justice, and equity. In the process of engaging stakeholders to develop the report, the Task Force heard from representatives from communities of color and rural communities, and analyzed policy options through an equity lens. Task Force’s first recommendation in the report is to establish an Office of Environmental Justice that will coordinate across state agencies and “[engage] with Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, low-income communities, and environmental justice advocates, to design climate policies that reduce emissions and pollutants and address the cumulative and deadly impacts of their concentration within these communities.” The Task Force also recommends improving Tribal consultation processes, mandating racial disparity impact studies for development projects, and implementing anti-racism education and training for state employees.

 

Many of the recommended strategies relate directly to resilience. For example, the Resilient Systems strategies include:

  • Updating rules to reflect projections of increased rainfall rather than historic rain events.
  • Restoring and remediating wetlands.
  • Creating a state-wide flood resilience plan with a focus on urban and rural watershed specific actions.
  • Developing a statewide climate risk assessment and resilience plan. This option also requires that local hazard mitigation plans and community health improvement assessments and plans include consideration of climate change.
  • Giving local governments the option to mandate environmental controls beyond state minimums.

The report includes strategies that would improve resilience across other sectors as well, including:

  • Examining the climate resilience of the state’s transportation system.
  • Supporting farmer led watershed programs.
  • Teaching K-12 climate science and creating climate resilient schools.
  • Developing a state-wide food system subsistence adaptation plan, which would include assessing and addressing vulnerability of food subsistence systems utilized by urban communities of color, rural areas, and Native Nations.
  • Implementing climate-focused forest management.

Each strategy is described in detail in the report including identifying strategies and policy pathways. Policy pathways specify whether executive action, budget, or legislation are needed to implement the options.

The report was produced pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order #52, signed on October 17, 2019, which created the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change and charged it with identifying policies that would “meaningfully mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change for the benefit of Wisconsin communities.” The 32-member Task Force was composed of representatives from state agencies, the Legislature, local governments, Native Nations, the business community, labor unions, energy producers, the agriculture community, tourism, environmental and climate change organizations, youth organizations, and academia. The Task Force met from December 2019 through October 2020 with members working in three groups: healthy communities and a strong economy, land use and conservation, and energy, housing, infrastructure, and transportation.  More than 1,000 people participated in listening sessions, 95% of Wisconsin’s counties gave input, and over 500 people submitted comments. The final report was issued in December 2020.

Publication Date: December 2020

Related Organizations:

  • Wisconsin Governor's Task Force on Climate Change

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Resource Types:

  • Adaptation plan
  • Plans (other)
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

States Affected:

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