MADISON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) – The governor's Task Force on Climate Change held its third meeting Thursday—this time virtually over Zoom.

Members focused on land use and conservation with experts, such as the Great Lake Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission and the Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil & Healthy Water, presenting on issues of flooding, carbon sequestration, climate adaptation, and soil conservation.

“We are seeing many similarities between the deadly spread of COVID-19 and the growing threat of climate change. Namely, we know that many of the same communities are being disproportionately and unjustly hurt by both, but we also know that putting action behind science and data is key to minimizing the threat of both,” Lt. Gov. Barnes, who chairs the task force, said. “This is why our work on the Task Force on Climate Change is so important as we reshape how we live our everyday lives and rethink how our systems are working—or not working—for the communities in our state.”

The meeting began with a keynote from Organic Valley, one of Wisconsin’s environmental and clean energy leaders.

The task force originally wanted to take their meetings on the road, but the coronavirus pandemic got in the way.

“Since we didn't have the opportunity to travel to Cashton today, we still invited Organic Valley to give some brief opening words as if we were there,” Lt. Gov. Barnes said.

Organic Valley is the biggest food brand to source all of the electricity for its owned facilities from 100-percent renewable energy.

The solar and wind project would've been a nearly $20 million investment for the company to do on its own.

Jerry McGeorge, executive vice president of people, explained how Organic Valley surpassed its goals through partnerships and cooperation.

“The idea was that perhaps there would be a partner that might be willing to come in and put up some of the capital in exchange for access to the tax credits, and indeed that's what we were able to do,” McGeorge said.

McGeorge says the company also partnered with local electric providers who also benefit.

“We have fixed costs on the energy coming from these solar arrays, which then becomes part of the portfolio for each of the municipal electric providers, so they reap the benefit through rates,” McGeorge said.

The task force has been hearing ideas like Organic Valley's to come up with a plan to offer the governor, but even that's getting pushed back because of the pandemic.

“Because of the changes COVID has presented, Gov. Evers has granted the task force an extension and our recommendations will now be due to the governor on October 31,” Lt. Gov. Barnes said. “I know there was a little bit of anxiety about the mid-August deadline.”

The task force will also be launching a website soon so members of the public can participate and share their thoughts.

“Not only is the task force working to develop policies that will protect our environment and help our state transition to a cleaner economy, but the task force is working to center the voices and experiences of those who have been most impacted by climate change—whether they be communities of color, Indigenous communities, or low-income communities,” Lt. Gov. Barnes said. “I’m grateful to the members for their ongoing work and for their steadfast commitment to moving us towards a more equitable and sustainable future.”