A Green Zone, as defined in the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan, is a place-based policy initiative aimed at improving health and supporting economic development using environmentally conscious efforts in communities that face the cumulative effects of environmental pollution, as well as social, political, and economic vulnerability. The concept was introduced into the Climate Action Plan by a group of environmental justice advocates who formed the Environmental Justice Working Group of the Climate Action Plan. Green Zones are an opportunity to address the historic environmental injustices perpetrated on communities of color, indigenous peoples, and low-income communities in Minneapolis. The objective of the Green Zone is to work with the community to identify actions and target solutions in a comprehensive manner to improve environmental, health, and economic conditions without displacing existing residents.
In June 2013 the Minneapolis City Council adopted the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan, establishing goals to reach citywide greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 15 percent by 2015, 30 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2050. As a result of the Environmental Justice Working Group’s efforts, the plan’s Energy & Buildings section recommends developing a Green Zones initiative in Minneapolis, through which designated Green Zones neighborhoods would benefit from targeted energy efficiency retrofit campaigns or renewable energy installations. Developing a Green Zones initiative was also part of the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan Two-year (2014-2015) Priorities.
The City of Minneapolis Energy Pathways Study coincided with the 2014 expiration of utility franchise agreements with both Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy. The Energy Pathways report addresses concerns from policymakers, advocates, businesses, and residents related to environmental impacts of our energy system, reliability of service, local economic impacts, and the equity of energy services. A Green Zones initiative is introduced in the report as a promising strategy to transition underserved and environmentally impaired parts of a city into healthier, safer, and more economically viable places to live and work. The study included a recommendation to implement a Green Zones pilot project in the next 6-18 months in Minneapolis, as part of efforts related to a city-utility partnership.
In November 2015, the City Council Health Environment and Community Engagement committee passed a resolution to establish a Green Zones Workgroup , which was approved by the full City Council on February 12, 2016. The Resolution directed Sustainability staff to establish a Green Zones Workgroup tasked with analyzing data and developing data-driven recommendations including:
- Criteria and eligibility requirements of Green Zone designation
- Goals, expectations and metrics aimed at tracking progress within each designated Green Zone
- Strategies aimed at improving health and supporting economic development using environmentally conscious efforts in communities that face the cumulative effects of environmental pollution, as well as social, political and economic vulnerability.