The Loring Greenway in Downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Zack Benz

Minneapolis awarded innovative climate change project, funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies

2 mins read

Earlier this week, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that Minneapolis, in addition to six other cities from Europe and the United States, will receive support to adopt Stockholm’s 2014 Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge Winning Biochar Project.

This project will turn wood waste, such as tree limbs, from parks and homes into a charcoal-like substance that residents can then use in their yards and gardens to help combat climate change by sequestering CO2 emissions.

“When you think of climate change, generally you think of doing less – what we need is more innovative work like this biochar project,” said Mayor Jacob Frey. “This partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies will allow us to build on our early adoption of biochar and negative carbon emission programs. To meet our Minneapolis climate goals, we must continue these kinds of creative collaborations and projects that protect our environment and our residents.”

“We are at a tipping point in our fight to combat the irreversible effects of climate change,” said Council President Andrea Jenkins. “All levels of government need to step up and do more around carbon negative solutions and environmental justice. This biochar project is one step in how we will create access for residents to use environmentally friendly resources and becoming a more climate resilient city. I look forward to ensuring that communities of color are included in this project moving forward.”

Minneapolis, along with Darmstadt, Germany; Helsingborg, Sweden; Sandnes, Norway; Helsinki, Finland; Cincinnati, Ohio; Lincoln, Nebraska, will each receive up to $400,000 in funding. Additionally, each city will receive implementation and technical support from Bloomberg Philanthropies to develop city-wide biochar projects and engage residents in the fight against climate change. In total, the seven projects are expected to produce 3,750 tons of biochar, which would sequester almost 10,000 tons of CO2 per year – the equivalent of taking 6,250 cars off the roads every year.

Minneapolis’ winning proposal includes building a local biochar production facility that will turn local wood waste into biochar using clean, carbon-negative technology. Minneapolis’ early utilization of biochar dates to 2013, with a program initially focused on community gardens and improving food access. In 2014, the City entered into an MOU with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community to provide biochar and compost to at-risk communities in Minneapolis. The program has since grown to include improving urban agriculture, urban forestry, green infrastructure, and storm water.

“Jim Doten, our program manager, has become a national leader in this innovative strategy,” said Patrick Hanlon, Director of Environmental Programs. “Supported by City leadership and Bloomberg, I am looking forward to seeing our partners scale up the work here in Minneapolis with locally produced biochar. This is an exciting new step in the fight on climate change.”

The City’s local partners include: Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Hennepin County, Pillsbury United, Ventura Village, Windom Neighborhood Association, Little Earth Housing Community, Xcel Energy, University of Minnesota, Natural Resource Research Institute, Environmental Initiative, Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, MNDOT, and other organizations.

“We are excited about the collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies,” said Jim Doten, Carbon Sequestration Program Manager. “It will grow our existing biochar work to better serve the residents of Minneapolis. Projects with our partners have shown how biochar boosts urban farming, builds green stormwater infrastructure, and strengthens our urban forests. Local production of biochar is an important part of our climate fight, going beyond carbon neutral to drawing carbon down.”        

Minneapolis is recognized as an early leader in this field, incorporating carbon-negative biochar into the climate fight with over 20 demonstration projects to date.

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