Clean Energy & Climate

Clean Energy and Climate represents a Great Lakes Commission priority as articulated in the Commission’s biennial workplan.  To view current projects and accomplishments in this area, please use the links  at right.

Clean Energy

Energy production and use have an impact on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River economy and environment, including water resources. The current national energy mix, which relies primarily on fossil fuels, is an important contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. The Great Lakes states and provinces have joined two different regional forums to address issue: the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (New York, Québec and Pennsylvania) and the Midwest Governors’ Association’s Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin). Still, there is no forum to address energy issues for the Great Lakes region as a whole. With our state-provincial membership and mandate, the Commission is uniquely positioned to bring Great Lakes states, provinces and other stakeholders together to advance clean energy with a focus on how energy issues affect the water and other natural resources of the Great Lakes Basin.

Climate Change

There is growing evidence that regional climate change is altering the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence ecosystem: average temperatures are rising; winters have become shorter; spring is arriving earlier. Extreme rainfall events are becoming more frequent and there are shorter durations of ice cover, especially on smaller lakes. Experts believe that climate change is already impacting water levels: the upper lakes (Superior, Michigan and Huron) have recently been near historic low records. Low lake levels have already exacerbated the need for dredging and decreased hydropower production across the region impacting the U.S. and Canadian economies. Climate change poses serious threats to the ecosystem and challenges as well as opportunities for the region’s economy. The anticipation of such impacts was recognized by the region’s leaders when they signed the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Sustainable Water Resources Agreement in 2005, which states “In light of possible variations in climate conditions and the potential cumulative effects of demands that may be placed on the waters of the Basin, the states and provinces must act to ensure the protection and conservation of the Waters and Water Dependent Natural Resources of the Basin for future generations.” The Commission will target its climate change work at water resources, which may include how energy issues affect the water and other natural resources of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin.

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