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On Monday, April 25, Evanston’s City Council will have an opportunity to join hundreds of other cities in 38 countries in declaring a climate emergency.
By voting “yes” on a resolution that will come before them in a special order of business, council members will recognize the urgency of climate threats. They will commit to concrete actions, beginning now, to help Evanston reach our net-zero emissions goal by 2050 while preparing for the inevitable impacts of climate change. And they will communicate to a new City Manager that action on climate is a top priority. More than a dozen community groups are urging a “yes” vote.
Evanston’s current Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) was adopted unanimously in December 2018 by the previous City Council. It’s a strong document, the work of a diverse and devoted working group of community members. It doesn’t, however, lay out a detailed implementation plan, and budget and staffing have never been commensurate with CARP goals. The Climate Emergency Resolution will begin to open up a clearer pathway for meaningful change.
So far, Evanstonians have been insulated from the most dire and immediate effects of climate change. No Evanston homes have been lost to climate-fueled wildfires, and we live next to one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world. But even here, we can’t escape from rising temperatures and the increasing risk of extreme storms, flooding, drought, worsening air quality and deadly heat waves. We are touched by food insecurity, disrupted supply chains and rising insurance premiums. Many of us, especially young people, contemplate the future with fear and grief. And it’s those who are most vulnerable, here as well as around the world, who will continue to be hit hardest.
What difference can a small city make? The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released this month by the working group on mitigation, delivers a terrifying forecast and an indictment of political leaders – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called it “a litany of broken promises” – but it also offers concrete avenues for action. Most relevant for Evanston, the report highlights the role of cities. Yes, we need to demand change at the state and federal level and in the business and financial sectors. But there are many things cities like Evanston can do, right here and right now. We can change our building codes, support ways of getting around that don’t require cars, favor planning that locates workplaces close to housing, grow our green spaces, adopt policies that cut waste, and so much more.
By showing leadership, the city will inspire individuals, businesses, other organizations – even other cities – to join the fight. Let’s hope we can look back on April 25 as a turning point.
Pollock is co-chair of the Evanston Environment Board.
Other organizations endorsing the resolution are Environmental Justice Evanston,
Citizens’ Greener Evanston, E-Town Sunrise, District 65 Climate Action Team,
Evanston Environmental Association, Democratic Party of Evanston Climate Action Team, Citizens Climate Lobby, The Climate Reality Project: Chicago Metro Chapter, 350.org Chicago Chapter, Beth Emet Dayenu Circle and the League of Women Voters of Evanston.