Green Minneapolis is dedicated to advancing the vibrancy of Minneapolis through parks and greening. The non-profit (81 South 9th Street Suite 260) conducted a study focused on establishing an urban tree planting initiative.
The study determined:
• The urban tree canopy is an important way to mitigate the impacts of climate change
• The urban tree canopy in Minneapolis is decreasing
•Local governments are looking for new funding sources to plant more trees
• An urban tree carbon credit marketplace was emerging across the U.S., and leading Twin Cities companies are purchasing carbon credits
In 2021, Green Minneapolis formally started the Twin Cities Climate Resiliency Initiative that included the establishment of Minnesota’s first urban tree carbon offset program.
Green Minneapolis Twin Cities Climate Resiliency Initiative Project Coordinator Michaela Neu is helping lead the tree program to plant and sustain 5 million trees in the Twin Cities’ metro area.
“I am passionate about our work to enhance the vitality of Minneapolis by building public/private partnerships to expand the metro area’s tree canopy,” Neu said.
What is Green Minneapolis’ role in this plan?
Neu: In the urban tree carbon offset program, Green Minneapolis is the project operator, which means that we administer the project on behalf of our tree planting partners. In addition to our role as project operator, Green Minneapolis is serving as the carbon credit broker for selling the carbon credits generated from these projects. One carbon credit is equivalent to an emission reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide.
In a 20-year plan, where are you now?
Neu: Our pilot project with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) launched the first urban tree carbon offset program in Minnesota, which includes 23,755 trees that were planted from 2019-2021. We are currently working on our second urban tree carbon credit project with the MPRB, that includes 10,000 trees planted in 2022. Our initiative received $1 million in funding from the City of Minneapolis that the MPRB is using to plant an additional 8,000 trees in 2023 and 2024. We plan to do annual tree planting projects with the MPRB for the next 20 years and are developing tree planting partnerships with other Twin Cities local governments including Hennepin County.
How do you work with small businesses so these can be available across the metro?
Neu: To date, we have been working with larger companies located in the Twin Cities that have already determined their carbon footprint from their operations and are taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions. We are interested in making our carbon credits available to small businesses that want to offset their carbon footprints, and look forward to developing a program where small businesses can get assistance in estimating their carbon footprints and how to reduce their emissions.
Why does this matter for local communities?
Neu: The urban tree canopy is an essential component of urban infrastructure that keeps our cities livable and economically vibrant – just like our transit systems or stormwater management systems. In addition to sequestering carbon, urban trees provide other quantifiable benefits to urban communities including reducing flooding, stormwater runoff, air pollution, urban heat islands, and heating and cooling energy use. In addition, trees increase property values, contribute to our mental health, provide habitat for wildlife, reduce crime, slow down car traffic, and create local urban arborist careers.
What is your opinion on planting trees to combat climate change?
Neu: While it may be up for debate at the macro level whether we can plant enough trees across the planet to sequester carbon at the levels necessary to mitigate climate change, there is little debate that urban tree canopy can mitigate the impacts of climate change on urban communities through other means. In addition to sequestering carbon, urban trees capture stormwater, thus reducing flooding of neighborhoods and polluting urban waterways. Urban trees also filter large quantities of particulate air pollution, making it safer for urban residents to breathe and exercise outside.
Urban tree canopy also reduces urban heat islands, cooling city streets and buildings, and reducing energy use. During the winter, urban trees act as windbreaks, reducing the heating costs and energy used by adjacent buildings. Urban trees also provide urban wildlife habitat, especially for birds and pollinators.
How can people help?
Neu: The Twin Cities Climate Resiliency Initiative brings together individuals and companies that are taking action to reduce their environmental footprint by investing in the local tree canopy and community. You can help make a difference by donating to Green Minneapolis Twin Cities Urban Forest Fund, where funds will be used to plant and maintain trees across the metro area. More information can be found at www.greenminneapolis.org/projects/climate-resiliency-initiative/carbon-offset-program/.
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