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After its preview to residents earlier this fall, the City’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) came before the City’s Human Services Committee on Dec. 3 and the full City Council on Dec. 10.
Last year Mayor Stephen Hagerty appointed 17 people with expertise in the challenges posed by climate change to craft a plan to address as many of these as possible. The members – Vickie Jacobson, Sara Lovinger, M.D., Mariana Oliver, Lonnie Wilson, Laura Marquez-Viso (co-chair), John Moore, Joel Freeman, Jeri Garl, Henry Eberhart, Emily Lawrence, Likwan Cheng, Chris Kucharczyk, Judy Pollock, Bob Dean, Gabriela Martin, Gajan (Gaj) Sivandran and Jack Darin – wrote the plan themselves, he said, with little staff supervision. Their guiding principles were that the plan be equity-centered, outcome-focused and cost-effective and affordable.
Aldermen at the Human Services Committee meeting thanked the committee members for their work and asked a few questions.
“What will City services look like, hand-in-hand with CARP?” asked Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward. “Will we have fewer garbage trucks?” Kumar Jensen, the City’s Sustainability Manager, said the committee’s work did not tackle such specifics.
Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said “The goals seem really ambitious, [but] I have every confidence that coming together as a community we can achieve them.” She then asked, “What one or two areas should the City work on?”
“Stormwater management, green infrastructure and building-energy consumption,” answered Mr. Jensen. “Intentionally we’re primed for a new planning process around stormwater management, because that is the primary impact we are likely to see. Eighty percent of Evanston’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, so it’s incredibly important that we understand better building-energy consumption and do everything we can to support people in reducing that energy consumption.”
Addressing the Global Problem
The plan has two major sections – climate mitigation and climate resilience. Without wasting time on the pseudo-argument of whether climate change exists, the CARP anticipates the warnings of the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, released on Oct. 8, and the National Climate Assessment, released on Nov. 23.
Mr. Jensen said the CARP builds on the success of two previous climate action plans – one in 2008, the goals of which were met in 2012, the other in 2014, the goals of which were met in 2016. The current plan, he said, looks at how Evanston will prepare for the effects of climate change.”
The problem is a global one. Weather affects the economy, health and infrastructures, as well as many other aspects of living on this planet. “We have 12 years to reduce carbon emissions by 45%. … We need to prepare for climate hazards and their impacts now,” Mr. Jensen said. The 10 hottest years in recorded history have all occurred since 1998. Among the climate hazards are microburst such as the one Evanston experienced last summer, he said, adding, “We can expect more storms like that.”
The CARP calls for carbon neutrality by 2050, 100% clean and renewable electricity by 2030 and zero waste by 2050. The RoundTable’s Sept. 19 issue “City Working Group Provides Roadmap to Make Evanston Carbon Neutral by 2050,” available at evanstonroundtable.com, described the plan in detail.
Achieving carbon neutrality presents a challenge, because, in a sense the City has already grasped the low-hanging fruit. Greater usage of natural gas and the retiring of coal-fired plants have reduced emissions regionally, as well as for the City, and citizen efforts have helped realize a 24% reduction communitywide by 2017. Eighty percent of the residents eligible to participate in the City’s electricity aggregation program do so, Mr. Jensen said. That energy is 100% renewable. However, since, by State law, larger businesses are not eligible for the program, only about 21% of the energy used in Evanston is from renewable sources. Zero waste, Mr. Jensen said, has no technical definition, but a working one is “saying we will send little or no waste to a landfill.”
At the City Council meeting, aldermen accepted the plan unanimously, asking a few more questions.
Ald. Fiske expressed some concern about the potential cost of the plan. “When I vote to approve something,” she said, “I need to know what the cost is.”
Ald. Revelle said, “With a plan like this and the strategies it involves, we can’t really set a price tag on it. Some things we can get grants for, and some things will become less expensive.”
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said, “I can see both sides. … This is a 32-year plan. … You put your head down, and you do the work.”
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said, “We more than exceeded our original plan, and it sparked [community] action. I agree with Alderman Fiske that we should get the numbers, but we’ve got to start somewhere.”
Ald. Fiske said she would support the plan “as a feel-good program, but it’s going to cost.”