Member Highlight - CURE

Monday, March 7, 2016
Sarina Otaibi

1)  CURE is a Minnesota-based organization that focuses on water, climate, and energy. How does climate change tie into that work?

CURE was founded 25 years ago as a grassroots advocacy nonprofit focused on protecting and restoring the watersheds of the Minnesota River Basin.  A decade ago, CURE’s leadership directed staff to campaign against the construction of a new coal-fired electricity generator in  order to halt further mercury pollution from being deposited in the Minnesota River Valley.  That campaign led to an ongoing relationship with the RE-AMP network, a midwest network of 172 nonprofits whose goal is to address climate change by reducing CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 economy wide.  CURE staff leads the clean energy working group in RE-AMP and is dedicated to the work and the network goal.

As a rural nonprofit, one thing that we bring to the conversation is the important role that Rural Electric Cooperatives play in advancing clean energy generation and energy efficiency or, as many rural electric cooperatives do, act as obstructionists to clean energy policy and as barriers to their own co-op members investing in clean energy solutions.

Another area of interest for CURE is the promotion and advancement of restorative soil health strategies as both a carbon mitigation strategy and as an adaptive strategy for changing climate in agriculture.  Of all the issue areas where CURE excels, soil health rests at the nexus of watershed restoration and climate strategies.

2)  As a rural-based organization, what role do you see rural communities and landscapes playing in the climate solution?

Minnesota has 25 million acres under cultivation with 75% of those acres dedicated to corn and soybeans.  We have 75,000 farmers.  Farmers, acres, and the communities that rest among the fields must become part of the solution for building a more sustainable rural environment.  Farming practices must change to address the true costs of water degradation, soil carbon depletion, and erosion and the risk that climate change poses on crops from heat, drought, and flooding. In Minnesota, we are promoting a goal of having 20% living cover by 2020 as a way to mediate this risk.  Communities should take a proactive path by investing in the long-held rural values of independence and self-reliance and forge a path for an energy future that recognizes the worldwide shift to clean energy and efficiency and puts communities and rural people at the center of their local energy economy.

3) What policies – local, state, or federal – would CURE like to see in response to climate change?

Any federal policy that supports a just energy transformation, empowers local communities, and reduces carbon emission would be the right policy.  CURE does support a national carbon fee and dividend structure.

In states, renewable energy portfolio standards have given clean energy the support needed to align business, industry, and utilities to rather seamlessly advance toward transformational goals.  Increased standards should reflect past momentum and current market trends.  Any state policies that level the playing field and incentivize opportunities for rural communities would be welcome.

Locally, rural communities, especially those struggling to stay viable, should participate in programs meant to build on utilize energy strategies as local economic and community engagement accelerators.  Distributed generation and rural communities belong together and policies should reflect that opportunity.