Chicago's Climate Action Plan

GLOBE-Net - In September 2008, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley unveiled a detailed strategy to help lower greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. The Chicago Climate Action Plan, plan builds on the many efforts the City has already implemented that have earned it the title of “the most environmentally friendly city in the nation.”

“We can continue to lead by example and the Chicago Climate Action Plan is the next step,” Mayor Daley said at that time, repeating a message he delivered in Vancouver at GLOBE 2006. “We can’t solve the world’s climate change problem in Chicago, but we can do our part. We have a shared responsibility to protect our planet,” he added.

Under the plan, which was developed by a Task Force convened by Daley in 2007 and co-chaired by Adele Simmons, President of Global Philanthropy Partnership, and Sadhu Johnston, the City’s Chief Environmental Officer, the City will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels - the recommended baseline according to the Kyoto Protocol.

Other cities have set similar goals, but Chicago’s plan is the first to both identify emission sources and anticipated impacts, and propose ideas that specifically respond to that research.

The Chicago Climate Action Plan outlines five strategies, which are broken into 26 actions for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and nine actions to prepare for climate change. The actions detailed in the Strategies section draw on current technology and options available in the marketplace. The five core strategies focus on:

Energy Efficient Buildings - Buildings and related energy sources account for approximately 70 percent of all city emissions and are the primary target for reductions. Key opportunities identified focus on improving energy efficiency of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. The city believes that if half of all city residents and half of all managers of commercial businesses took easy, low-cost steps as outlined in the Buildings Guide, they could each reduce their emissions by one metric ton of CO2 equivalent per year.

Clean and Renewable Energy Sources - Clean and renewable energy sources include higher standards for fossil fuel plants and replacing energy from fossil fuel plants with renewable energy. Chicago receives power from a regional grid of nuclear, coal-fired, natural-gas fired and renewable electricity generation plants. Some of these are a significant source of CO2 emissions, especially those that use coal. The Clean and Renewable Energy Report proposes upgrading or re-powering the 21 coal plants in the state of Illinois, including two in Chicago proper.

Improved Transportation options - Transportation accounts for 21 percent of all GHG emissions in the city. The strategy proposed in the Transportation Plan focuses on measures to reducing vehicle miles travelled and major investments in transit raising Chicago’s transit system ridership by 30 percent.

Reduced Waste and Industrial Pollution - Waste and Industrial Pollution accounts for a much smaller share of Chicago’s emissions, but an estimated 3.4 million tons of waste (62 percent of Chicago’s total waste) winds up in landfills every year. Measures proposed in the Waste Management Plan include reducing, reusing and recycling 90 percent of the city’s waste by 2020; promoting the use of alternative refrigerants in air conditioners and appliances; and capturing storm water on site with green infrastructure.

Adaptation - The City’s Climate Adaptation Plan identifies steps required to deal with high levels of GHGs already in the atmosphere. Measures proposed include: managing heat, pursuing innovative cooling, protecting air quality, managing storm water, implementing Green Urban Design principles, preserving plants and trees, engaging the public to take their own adaptive measures, and asking businesses to assess their vulnerability to climate change impacts.

What is singular about the Chicago Action Plan is its focus on the do-able - practical everyday measures that can be implemented by citizens and businesses - and the emphasis given to putting in place measures that will have longer term, more widespread impacts such as new transit systems and a new sustainable building code.

The other key message is the leadership shown by the man on the top. Mayor Daley’s personal commitment to the vision of creating America’s ’greenest city’ permeates throughout the bureaucratic apparatus that is the essential part of any city’s governance structure. His mission is best summed up in his own words:

“Since I have been mayor, my goal has been to make Chicago a shining example of how a large city can live in harmony with its environment and as a result, be a better place for all its residents. I am confident that if we address the climate change challenge together, with creativity and boldness, then our city will continue to lead the world in designing a path to a more secure future.”

You can return to the main Market News page, or press the Back button on your browser.