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Chicago Leads on Climate Action

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By Wendy Gordon

“While climate change is a worldwide issue, 75 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are generated in the world’s urban areas. Reducing energy use and emissions in cities is therefore fundamental in any effort to reverse the trajectory of global warming.” So reads page six of the Chicago Climate Action Plan, released in September 2008.

Cities, by their very nature, have great potential to be green. A compact environment means many shared services. A rich transit infrastructure results in fewer automobile miles traveled per person. Smaller dwelling units, such as apartments, especially when they are attached, result in lower energy use per person. Local governments and agencies have great influence over their city’s greenhouse gas emissions. They can enhance the energy efficiency of buildings through codes and ordinances. They own or manage landfills and waste treatment plants, a significant source of methane gas. They operate public transport and maintain its infrastructure. They often determine land use policies. City purchasing power can affect markets for vehicles, new technologies and eco-friendly equipment and practices.

When it comes to greening a city, Chicago’s Mayor Daley sets a high bar for mayors and governors around the country. In Chicago, businesses have made huge strides in energy efficiency. Unions have trained workers to install new renewable energy technologies, architects have built award-winning green buildings, environmental organizations have helped develop innovative green policies, schools and universities have incorporated environmentally friendly practices in both their facilities and their programs.

But much more is needed. Mayor Daley commissioned a multi-stakeholder task force to produce a Chicago Climate Action Plan. The plan was released September 2008. The task force looked at a variety of outcomes from several possible future greenhouse gas emission levels. For example, if current emission levels were held steady, by the end of the century, the number of days over 100 F could increase from the two days per year to as many as 31 days per year. The task force agreed that Chicago needs to achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, with the sharpest reductions occurring over the next 12 years–by 2020–in order to do its part to avoid the worst global impacts of climate change.

A team of researchers analyzed Chicago’s building stock, transportation systems and energy infrastructure to identify emissions reduction actions. The task force and several hundred stakeholders reviewed all the research findings on climate impacts, greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation and adaptation strategies. After extensive analysis, the Chicago Climate Task Force settled on 26 actions for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and nine actions to prepare for climate change. They are calling upon a range of government bodies, companies, organizations and all Chicagoans to step up and be a part of the solution.

In tough economic times, cities like Chicago certainly have the will to make change. But will they find the money? I certainly hope so. The truth is, as with the Treasury’s bailout plan, the stakes are too high to stay the course. It’s time now to invest in the green economy. Let’s start with our cities.

Comments

  1. John
    June 24, 2010, 6:57 am

    This is certainly good to hear. And i wish many new initiatives should be taken in and around chicago in this way.
    san Francisco movers

  2. John
    June 24, 2010, 6:56 am

    This is certainly good to hear. And i wish many new initiatives should be taken in and around chicago in this way.
    san Francisco movers

  3. Linda
    May 24, 2010, 11:54 pm

    This post certainly grabs our attention towards go-green technique. I hope additional techniques and tactics have to be provided to the team of officers. And not only Chicago, I believe it should be practiced in all the cities world-wide.
    Chicago Movers

  4. Cork Flooring
    March 31, 2010, 1:00 am

    Chicago is my home town and glad to hear about this, even if I’m a bit late on the response. Too this day we still appear to lead the way. I’ve done my part with growing organic food, using less electricity and natural gas. Not to mention my new beautiful cork flooring in my bedroom!

  5. jake
    January 3, 2010, 7:07 am

    It was about time, Chicago got the lead.
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  6. jake
    January 3, 2010, 7:04 am

    Finally something happens in Chicago.

  7. Green Mortgages
    October 4, 2009, 7:23 pm

    This is good news for Chicago. I have a lot of homeowners looking to finance energy efficient home improvements via green mortgages in Chicago. In a city which has hard winter weather, helping more and more homeowners make their homes more efficient, will effect the overall “energy health” in the state.

  8. Green Mortgages
    October 4, 2009, 7:22 pm
  9. zach
    November 3, 2008, 11:41 pm

    This is very interesting. I’m surprised Obama doesn’t use this to his advantage more; that “his” city is leading the way.
    For those who are interested in making a difference, one person at a time, please visit the following site. It really truly is revolutionary.
    http://www.poweredgreen.com/

  10. zach
    November 3, 2008, 11:40 pm

    This is very interesting. I’m surprised Obama doesn’t use this to his advantage more; that “his” city is leading the way.
    For those who are interested in making a difference, one person at a time, please visit the following site. It really truly is revolutionary.
    http://www.poweredgreen.com/