Protecting our planet so everyone can thrive requires transforming how we produce and use electricity. The McKnight Foundation supports bold action on the climate crisis, recognizing the urgent need to reduce carbon pollution, at scale, as quickly as possible in the Midwest. Through its Midwest Climate & Energy program, McKnight supports clean energy policies, regulatory changes, and market and technological changes that will advance more carbon-free energy sources, in order to dramatically cut carbon pollution in the Midwest by 2030.
In McKnight’s second-quarter 2021 grantmaking, the board awarded 111 grants totaling $20.7 million. Of that sum, $6.5 million went to support grantees in the Midwest Climate & Energy program, with a focus on strengthening democratic participation, transforming the energy system, and electrifying transportation and buildings.
“The Midwest Climate & Energy program preserves and improves the quality of life in the Midwest through sustained investment in climate and energy leadership in this region,” said McKnight board chair Noa Staryk. “At this pivotal moment in human history, we are proud to support our partners in advancing these ambitious climate goals.”
Through grants, investments, convening, and community engagement, the Climate program supports efforts that build power through partnership. “The McKnight Foundation, in partnership with others, has a powerful role to play in transforming our energy system,” said Tonya Allen, president of the Foundation. “Together, we can reduce carbon pollution, at scale, in a way that equitably creates millions of jobs and billions of dollars in new investments.”
“The McKnight Foundation, in partnership with others, has a powerful role to play in transforming our energy system. Together, we can reduce carbon pollution, at scale, in a way that equitably creates millions of jobs and billions of dollars in new investments.”
—TONYA ALLEN, McKNIGHT PRESIDENT
The partners featured below engage their communities in climate solutions, working to dramatically cut carbon pollution by 2030. The full list of approved grants is available in our grants database.
Engaging Communities in Decarbonization
Great Plains Institute for Sustainable Development
McKnight awarded $1.46 million over 24 months to the Great Plains Institute for Sustainable Development in general operating support. Based in Minneapolis, the Institute aims to achieve a net-zero carbon economy through five program areas: carbon management, communities, electricity, renewable energy, and transportation and fuels.
The Great Plains Institute was one of the conveners that helped prepare a readiness plan in 2020 for climate and clean energy in anticipation of Covid-19 relief. The organization brings significant policy expertise in power system, electric vehicles and clean fuels, carbon removal, and sustainable community development. GPI is a trusted and neutral convener in Midwest regions.
On the vanguard issue of the future of natural gas (also called fossil gas) in our energy system, GPI leads a stakeholder process that has brought together industry, environmental organizations, government, and others to advance a conversation about decarbonization. This process seeks to make Minnesota a national model in reversing the growth of fossil gas usage.
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
McKnight awarded $500,000 over 24 months to the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), the state’s premier environmental legal advocate located in St. Paul. MCEA is a vital part of the advocacy ecosystem, bringing important expertise to educate policymakers and support communities’ efforts to protect their environment, especially where people are disproportionately affected by pollution and social inequities.
This grant supports the MCEA’s Climate Program, which includes securing pre-2030 retirement for the remaining coal plants in Minnesota, preventing investment in new fossil fuel plants, and promoting investment in the renewable energy sector.
Sierra Club Foundation
McKnight awarded $600,000 over 24 months to the Sierra Club Foundation, the fiscal sponsor of Clean Energy for All Midwest, a program of Sierra Club and Sierra Club North Star Chapter. Clean Energy for All unites grassroots advocates to move the country beyond coal by advancing the retirement of existing coal plants and removing fossil fuels from the rest of the economy.
The Sierra Club Foundation’s work is moving beyond coal to reverse the growth of fossil gas: decarbonizing the building sector through reforms that end gas subsidies, regulating gas appliances, incentivizing zero-emission electric appliances, and establishing low-income electrification programs. This grant will continue support for its organizing capacity in strategic locations across the state, including Rochester and Duluth—supporting the transition of the power sector to clean energy and the removal of fossil fuels from other sectors of the economy.