Climate action update: Findings from the first phase of public engagement

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Findings from the first phase of public engagement

Thank you to everyone who took time to provide feedback on the county’s climate action plan priorities and foundational strategies. This update includes the findings of the most recent phase of public engagement.

Feedback sessions

In November, staff held a series of feedback sessions with community groups, youth, and the county’s Race Equity Advisory Council. A total of 84 people shared feedback on the climate action plan’s foundational strategies, impacts the community has experienced from climate change, and their priorities for a climate-friendly future.

Review a summary of the feedback received (PDF).


The county also conducted an online survey for residents that received more than 2,300 responses to learn about impacts the community has experienced from climate change and understand residents’ priorities to inform the plan. The survey also asked about actions residents are already taking and what actions they are interested in taking to mitigate climate change, which will be used to shape future outreach on the plan and guide the county’s education efforts on climate action.

Review a summary of the survey (PDF).

How the feedback is being used

These summaries have been shared with county commissioners, county administrators and climate team leads. Staff have reviewed the findings and are refining the plan’s goals and strategies based on the feedback received.

In reviewing the engagement findings, three key findings rose to the top of our analysis and were shared with county commissioners to consider in their review of the county’s climate action goals and strategies.

Key findings

The following key findings reflect commonly expressed ideas that garnered strong support.

Set ambitious goals and provide bold leadership

Most open-ended comments from the online survey stressed the urgency of the issue of climate change and encouraged the county to respond by being ambitious and providing bold leadership. This sentiment was echoed in the listening sessions, with participants noting how Hennepin County’s response will be a catalyst for both local and state efforts. Participants wanted to see a more aggressive timeline and stressed that meaningful metrics need to be established so the county and community could measure progress toward meeting our goals.

Climate change is intersectional with racial disparities

Although everyone will be impacted by the climate crisis, it will not be experienced equally. Community partners and survey respondents see the connection of systemic racism and environmental injustices. Many community organizations see the county’s development of a climate action plan as an opportunity to advocate for changes in the county’s transportation network and waste management system, specifically operations of the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC), as well as better health outcomes for people of color.

The plan provides a new opportunity to develop and implement a collective vision for:

  • Health and wellbeing outcomes
  • Equitable transportation system
  • Zero waste future
  • Green economic recovery, workforce development, and job creation

Focus on systems change, not individual choice

A significant number of survey comments focused on the desire for transformational systems change through leadership and the use of policies, procedures, and incentives rather than focusing on educating residents on the actions they can take individually. At the same time, community partners explained that educating the public and empowering their involvement in change would help expand the county’s reach and the impact of greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies. Community partners expressed the need for the county to authentically partner with communities to empower local leadership and community-driven initiatives to make solutions relevant and effective.

Implications to guide next steps

The first phase of public engagement with community groups, youth, and the general public provided insights on how the community is experiencing the effects of climate change and helped us understand how our values and priorities align with those of the community.

In many instances, we heard that we are generally on the right track, and the community supports us in taking bold and urgent action. We heard the importance of taking an intersectional approach to ensure our climate action plan responds to issues of racial and environmental justice, health, workforce development and other topics. We also heard many good ideas in the meetings for how the plan can better reflect the values and priorities of the community.

The following implications from the first phase of engagement will guide the next steps in the development of the climate action plan:

Consider more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions goals and refine metrics

The county should revisit its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and use information and guidance available from international, national, state, and local sources to consider more ambitious goals. The county also needs to further analyze the impacts of the climate action plan strategies to refine the metrics that the county, community, and public can use to measure progress.

Address disparities while responding to climate change

Like other environmental justice issues, those who least contribute to the problem of climate change will be most impacted. In this climate action plan, the county has an opportunity to recognize our obligation to work toward eliminating disparities in our response to climate change.

Engage the public to advance collective action

The pathway to transformative climate policies must be created by the county and other leaders, and then supported and moved forward by the public. To advance an impactful climate change response, the county needs to engage residents, listen to how climate change is impacting them, and collectively build support for solutions. Defining and articulating our collective vision for a climate-friendly future is critical to motivating collective action.

Increase education and empower local leadership

Education on individual choice and climate literacy is supported by community members, and community members expressed the need for more education on the impacts and increased awareness about the urgency of the issues. These efforts need to be paired with support of community-led initiatives and empowerment of local leadership.

Heighten the connection of climate change impacts to racial equity and health

Awareness about the impacts of climate change, especially the connections to racial equity, health, and unequal impacts to vulnerable communities, needs to be heightened. Presenting findings from the vulnerability assessment helped groups who were struggling to see the connections and more clearly understand the full implications of climate change.

Pay attention to who is represented, include community-driven solutions, and make equitable investments

The county needs to pay attention to how perspectives on issues, who is making decisions, and who delivers the message all matter. There are existing community-driven programs and initiatives that are having big impacts, and it’s important that these groups are represented in the solutions. The county also needs to look at how equitable hiring, contracting, and small business development can be expanded with new investments.

Pursue robust, multifaceted, consistent, and ongoing community engagement

Community engagement efforts during the formal plan adoption process and during plan implementation need to be multifaceted, robust, and consistent.

Participants in the feedback sessions represented a broad diversity of communities in Hennepin County. The participants expressed strong interest in collaboration and commitment to working with the county to ensure the plan is effective and impactful. They were interested in regular updates and ongoing engagement opportunities during the plan development and implementation.

Survey respondents tended to be more white and female, which is consistent with the typical demographics for the county’s environmental communication channels. Deeper engagement with more diverse audiences and vulnerable communities will require partnerships with community organizations who can help lead outreach efforts that resonate with their communities.

Next steps and timeline

County staff are now connecting with county commissioners to discuss the key findings, review plan strategies, and seek guidance on the next steps of public engagement. Staff are working toward the following timeline to seek board adoption of the plan:

  • February: Make draft plan available for public comment and announce online and virtual feedback opportunities
  • March: Summarize findings from engagement efforts and make final edits to the plan
  • April: Board takes up formal adoption of climate plan, which will include a final public comment process

Hennepin County
Environment and Energy

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