Projects and Progress

When it comes to addressing climate change and pollution, Duluth aims to lead by example. Mayor Larson originally committed the City of Duluth to meet the standards set through the Paris Agreement, to reduce emissions 80% by 2050, based on 2008 levels. However, in 2021, the City Council approved a Climate Emergency Declaration which pushed for us to exceed those goals. Since then, the City has now adopted a science-based goal, to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Climate action by the City is guided by the Climate Action Work Plan, which was first presented to City Council on February 14, 2022.  Implementation of the Work Plan is tracked through annual progress reports:

Duluth’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in municipal operations are a collaboration between the Sustainability Office and the Energy Team. Municipal emissions of greenhouse gasses from City operations are represented in the graph below (expressed in Carbon Dioxide-equivalent or CO2e). We use CO2e so we can easily compare emissions of multiple greenhouse gases from year to year. These calculations are based on Duluth's energy use data (electricity, natural gas, and gasoline/diesel use) that is uploaded into the Clear Path greenhouse gas calculator from ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability). Clear Path employs emissions standards set by the Local Government Operations (LGO) Protocol. By combining LGO with our unique city data, Clear Path ensures the City of Duluth has the most accurate emissions calculations possible. Since 2021, the City reports emissions through the Carbon Disclosure Project. For the 2022 greenhouse gas inventory there was an increase in vehicle fleet emissions. This increase reflects enhanced data collection techniques for fleet vehicles resulting in tracked emissions not accounted for in previous inventories (along with one of the snowiest Decembers on record). 

Comparison of CO2e by sector and year over all official inventories

Year Buildings and Facilities Street Lights and Traffic Signals Vehicle Fleet Water and Wastewater Treatment Facilities
1996 9,849 6,485 4,097 18,612
2008 9,869 5,884 3,330 19,983
2016 5,530 3,440 4,345 7,762
2017 5,818 5,041 4,346 8,754
2018 5,845 3,893 4,270 7,672
2019 4,487 2,254 4,346 7,540
2020 3,885 2,047 3,009 5,632
2021 4,230 1,715 3,031 5,256
2022 3,935 1,712 3,576 4,947
2023 3,789 1,558 3,346 5,608

2008 - baseline emissions emissions year, calculated by Wenck Associates, Inc. This baseline is what we compare current emission levels to, to measure the success of our carbon reduction strategies.

1996 - carbon inventory calculated using ICLEI's Clear Path tool, and it reveals that the City of Duluth's greenhouse gas emissions remained relatively steady until establishment of an energy fund and prioritizing emissions reductions.


Past Projects

Transitioning the steam plant to a hot water plant will have a host of environmental benefits, including: 

  • Increases efficiency = less energy, less water
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
  • Positions the system to integrate renewable energy, such as biomass (wood chips or renewable fuel oil sourced from biomass or agricultural crops)
  • Conserves 20 million gallons of Lake Superior water every year

Check out the graphics to learn more!

The Duluth Natural Areas Program designates certain lands with environmental value as permanently protected natural places. Duluth citizens have long recognized the value of these places to provide both natural resource protection and human sanctuary. Designating these lands ensures everyone in Duluth will always have access to these special places where they can appreciate nature and enjoy the outdoors. In doing so, Duluth preserves its natural heritage.

Managing stormwater runoff properly in Duluth helps protect our streams and Lake Superior.

Solar Spotlights

Canal Park Solar Data

Canal Park are a result of cooperation between Minnesota Power, Enbridge and the City of Duluth. The installation went live in late June 2017, and comprises 45 kilowatts of solar panels that shade parking spaces with access to EV chargers, including one DC fast charger. Live production data from the Canal Park charging station is available at the link below:

In an effort to reduce litter and the harmful environmental impact caused by single use carryout bags, the Duluth City Council passed an ordinance requiring retailers to collect a fee from customers for each plastic carryout bag provided.

In 2017, the City of Duluth hosted a mechanical engineering masters student from the University of Siegen, Germany. Max Schuessler took this opportunity to complete his internship and research in Duluth, coordinated through the Climate Smart Municipalities. Max’s research was to develop a concept hybrid energy system for the City’s water treatment center and main pump house.

View Live Production Data