Members of the coalition Sustain Evanston unveiled Phase 2 of the Evanston Climate Action Plan, the Evanston Livability Plan, on May 19.                                                                       RoundTable photo

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Achieving the Phase 1 goal of the 2008 Evanston Climate Action Plan appears to be just the starting point for a network of more than 20 sustainability groups that have come together over the past several months as Sustain Evanston. That goal, reducing carbon emissions by 13 percent from its 2005 base, is the starting point for Phase 2, the Evanston Livability Plan.

Evanston’s Climate Action Plan (ECAP) grew out of then-Mayor Lorraine Morton’s signing the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a document that incorporates the Kyoto Protocols. After the U.S. government declined to sign the Kyoto Protocols, local governments took action, crafting the climate protection agreement.

More than 1,000 mayors have signed the agreement, but Evanston is one of only a handful of communities that successfully met their community’s commitment, said Catherine Hurley, sustainability programs coordinator for the City of Evanston, in a May 8 memo to City Council.

The 13% reduction in emissions reduced greenhouse gas emissions here by 128,744 metric tons, Ms. Hurley said. Two “key factors” in this reduction were the City’s commitment to using 100% green energy in its electric aggregation program and “the collaborative involvement of Evanston’s environmental organizations and partners,” according to Ms. Hurley’s memo.

At a press conference on May 19, Karen Taira of the Evanston Environmental Board, a member of Sustain Evanston, said she thought one of the best things about ECAP was that it was “an action plan, not a theoretical one.”

Jack Darin, an Evanston resident and director of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, said he is “impressed and excited about the new plan. Not just for our City but our country and our world are looking for [solutions to climate change].”

Eleanor Revelle, president of Citizens Greener Evanston – which is also a member of the Sustain Evanston network – said the goal of the Evanston Livability Plan is a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2016, relative to the 2005 baseline.

There are five aspects of the livability plan, Ms. Revelle said: maintaining 100% renewable energy; implementing a green-power program for businesses that are not in the electricity-aggregation program; improving the energy efficiency of buildings; enhancing green transportation; and calling on the City, the school districts, Northwestern University and the two hospitals to “set good emission-reduction goals.

“The 20 percent emissions-reduction goal is both ambitious and attainable. But achieving this new goal will depend on all of us, acting individually and collectively. We invite residents, businesses, organizations, the City and our major institutions to join with us in making Evanston ‘the most livable city in America.’”

Green Power

Some of these strategies are already underway. In the March 20, 2012, primary election, residents approved the aggregation program, under which the City would contract with an alternate retail electricity supplier (ARES) to purchase electricity in bulk from a supplier with the most competitive and responsive price.  A few weeks later, City Council voted to purchase “green” energy – that is, energy certified as produced from sustainable sources (renewable energy credits, or RECs). The City has a three-year contract with Homefield Energy as its supplier of 100% green energy. In that contract, the City requested that the RECs have a “vintage” of only one year – that is, that the electricity will have been generated in Illinois or a neighboring state in the past year. Another energy company, MC Squared, will supply green energy to City-owned buildings.

Other Strategies

Energy-Efficient Buildings: Dellmar Gillus, chief operating officer of Elevate Energy, said his company has retrofitted 70 homes in Evanston, reducing carbon emissions by 107 metric tons.

Elevate Energy has a multi-layer partnership with Citizens Greener Evanston, Ms. Revelle said. First, CGE will work with Elevate Energy to identify interested building owners and encourage participation in its Energy Savers program. The program, which assists building owners in improving the energy efficiency of their buildings, is available for small (2-4 units) and large (5 or more units) multi-family buildings as well as buildings owned by nonprofits, houses of worship and public buildings.  

CGE will also try to raise funds to support the hiring of additional Elevate staff to implement a single-family home retrofit program, said Ms. Revelle.

“We also plan to work with Elevate to engage the real estate community in learning about the benefits of highlighting the energy efficiency … of the homes they want to sell.  Studies indicate that homes with high performance ratings sell more quickly and for higher prices than homes without this rating.  Over time, our expectation is that this will provide an added incentive to homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements in their homes,” said Ms. Revelle.

Green Power for Businesses: Sustain Evanston has begun working on finding an ARES supplier to businesses that do not participate in the aggregation program.

Transportation: The City continues to promote biking and walking, construction of transit-oriented developments, car-sharing and the purchase of alternative-fuel vehicles, such as electric and hybrid cars.

On May 19, City Council unanimously adopted the Evanston Livability Plan.

“The adoption of the new 20 percent emissions-reduction goal will allow Evanston to build on the momentum generated from reaching its initial goal of 13 percent,” said Rick Nelson, President of the Evanston Environmental Association (EEA). “People living and working in Evanston now know that together we can make such goals a reality, and this new target for emissions reduction can be the foundation for the city’s next big step towards a more sustainable future,” he added.

The Evanston Livability Plan is supported by many community organizations, such as Audubon Chicago Region, Citizens’ Greener Evanston, Evanston Environmental Association, Evanston Environment Board, Evanston Interreligious Sustainability Circle, Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse, Evanston Utilities Commission, League of Women Voters of Evanston, and the St. Nicholas Church Green Team.

More information about the groups that are a part of Sustain Evanston can be found on Evanston Green Buzz at evanstongreenbuzz.org.