Michelle Martinez

What’s in Store for the MiCAN Climate Action Summit on March 12, 2020

January 22, 2020 | |

Above: From the 2019 summit, Michelle Martinez, Statewide Coordinator, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition

See you in Ann Arbor! 

A year ago, as Governor Whitmer and her administration were just settling into their new offices, the Michigan Climate Action Network held its first Climate Action Summit. The timing of the Grand Rapids event was no coincidence, as MiCAN leaders set out to make a high-profile and early statement to the new administration that climate change was an urgent issue for millions of Michiganders. Proving the point, the conference attracted an outstanding slate of speakers and sold out in about a month as word of the event quickly spread.

MiCAN is now about to host its second Michigan Climate Action Summit, on March 12, 2020, in Ann Arbor. We checked in with Kate Madigan (at right), director of MiCAN, to reflect a bit on last year’s event and learn about the focus for this year.

The 2019 Summit sold out very quickly, so get your tickets now!

When you think back to the 2019 summit, what are some of the most important moments or achievements that float to the top?

Well, we really wanted an event that would elevate the issue of climate crisis in our state and get decisionmakers to take the climate crisis more seriously … start moving toward ambitious solutions for a just and rapid transition to clean energy. I think we achieved a lot of that. One example, the then-new director of the department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, Liesl Clark, told the crowd she had been saying no to all speaking requests until she had time to get more settled into her huge new job, but the governor specifically asked her to speak at the climate summit. In her talk Director Clark said that addressing climate change “will be a top priority for the governor,” and that got picked up by the Associated Press and ran in many news stories across the nation.

At the 2019 Summit, EGLE Director Clark said that addressing climate change
“will be a top priority for the governor.”

You’ve chosen Ann Arbor for 2020?

Yes, even before we held the 2019 Grand Rapids event, Missy Stults, the manager of sustainability and innovation from the City of Ann Arbor, contacted me to ask that, if we were going to do a summit in 2020 to please do it in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor just passed the most ambitious clmate goal of any city in Michigan, and we want to lift that up. Also, this year is the 50th anniversary of the launch of the environmental movement and so much environmental action, which began with a big teach-in at the University of Michigan in 1970. We’re excited about this year’s summit being part of big 50th anniversary events that we hope will help launch forward major progress and solutions on climate justice. So the summit happens during the day on March 12 at the Michigan Union and that evening will be a big rally event just down the street, an event being organized by some of the same groups that organized the first teach-in 50 years ago, including Ecology Center, one of the founding members of MiCAN.

ABOVE, clockwise from top: From the 2019 summit, Bryan Newland, Chairman of Bay Mills Indian Community; Jonathan Overpeck, PhD, Coordinating Lead Author for the Nobel Prize winning IPCC 4th Assessment (2007); Rachel Marco-Havens, artist and social justice advocate and Seth Bernard, musician and advocate.

Environmental justice was important to the 2019 summit and will be important to the 2020 summit. Can you share some insight on why climate change solutions should also move environmental justice forward?

For one, the impacts we see from climate change are most affecting low-income communities and people of color. This is true around the globe and here in Michigan. These often are the same communities that have been experiencing the greatest impacts of pollution from fossil fuels and often have the fewest resources to deal with climate impacts. As we create policies to address climate change, it is so important that we make sure they are just and equitable—that the jobs and economic boost that clean energy will bring benefits everyone, and that people and communities hurt by closing fossil fuel plants are supported in this transition. As we work for a stable climate, we can be also working for a state that is healthier, safer, and has good jobs for all people. Not only is this the right thing to do, working together makes us stronger so we have the power to win the bold solutions we need.

And we can expect to hear directly from people in frontline communities at the 2020 summit?

Absolutely. The stories of impacted communities are not widely enough known. We want to give voice to the people leading the efforts in communities, and to make sure frontline community and environmental justice leaders are at the table as policy solutions are developed. We will have a panel featuring people on the front lines who will be sharing the work they are doing, telling their stories, and we plan to bring in people from other states with climate policies that are including justice and equity in meaningful ways. The agenda is still being developed.

Regina Strong (center, blue jacket), director of Michigan’s Office of the Environmental Justice Public Advocate, talks with a conference attendee between sessions at the 2019 summit.

Anything else about the summit?

I’d like to mention that we have a really great planning team for the summit that is working to make it a powerful event. The Michigan Climate Action Network has about 50 organizations from around the state, and we’ve built the largest social media network of any group in Michigan. It’s because of that great, broad climate movement that the first summit was a success and that we have achieved what we have.

Switching gears here, last year the network changed its fiscal sponsor organization to Groundwork from the Michigan Environmental Council. What led to that change?

I have been working out of Traverse City for a decade now, working remotely from MEC’s Lansing office, and over time the idea of working in the same office with my colleagues became very appealing to me. I had worked so often with the Groundwork team on climate issues that when the opportunity came up it seemed like a natural and good idea to move. I continue to work closely with and will be ever grateful to MEC for giving me the opportunity to lead this organization. And I’m grateful to Groundwork for welcoming the network and offering team and administrative support that will help us continue to grow and be more effective than ever.

The 1970 Teach-In that Inspired the Environmental Movement and Inspires Us Today


Above: Poster for the 1970 environmental teach-in.

The 1970 environmental teach-in at the University of Michigan helped ignite the entire environmental movement. At the teach-in’s 50th anniversary, the Michigan Climate Action Summit will meet to honor that legacy and take strength for the fight ahead for a rapid and just transition to a clean energy economy.

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