Evanston’s City Council unanimously supported a Climate Emergency Resolution on April 26, 2022. Climate change was a hot campaign topic for nearly every candidate running for office in the last Evanston election.  That was then, this is now.

Emergency Climate Action is hard to find in the proposed $400 million 2023 budget. You might assume the budget would be packed with climate action funds to help Evanston households join the fight against climate change. Sadly, not so.  

  • There is $500,000 proposed, but not yet approved, to install solar panels on some municipal buildings.
  • There is $250,000 proposed but not yet approved for a small business pilot grant program to encourage sustainability.
  • There is a $1 million fund proposed but not yet in operation for a pilot program to aid Affordable Housing Retrofits, using ARPA funds. A for-profit contractor receives $100,000 of those funds. The program may help 50 affordable housing retrofits, if you are on the list of selected properties, and depending upon the results of a city energy audit of your home.
  • The $1.75 million in the effort to combat climate change is a nice gesture, but it is far too little in response to a “Climate Emergency”; some would say far too late.  And what about Evanston’s 30,000 households that would like to participate in a climate change solution, households that need financial support as an incentive to make the climate change leap?

Evanston’s proposed 2023 budget is packed with over $100 million of capital improvement projects that are proposed to be fully funded.

There is an estimated $7.5 million dollar animal shelter, a skate park, and millions of dollars more for consultants to study other projects.

It has also been reported that there are revenue surpluses from 2021 and 2022 totaling $90 million. It has not been explained if these surpluses are part of the 2023 budget, and if so, where? The question is, why can’t a reasonable fraction of this inflated budget be used to support household climate action?

The Household Climate Action Fund would provide up to $25,000 specifically and only for eliminating fossil fuel consumption, the core climate change problem, in households.

The fund would be set up to provide a no-interest loan, grant or a combination of a loan and grant depending on the household’s financial circumstances. The goal is to provide assistance/incentive for 1,000 Evanston households per year.

The types of actions being considered include buying an electric vehicle in lieu of a gas-burning combustion-engine vehicle, changing to electric home heating boilers in lieu of a gas boiler, changing to solar heating or other household changes that directly and immediately substitute renewable energy resources for existing fossil fuel uses.

The budget process is midstream and could close before the end of November.  Please reach out to your council member and the mayor to voice support for a Household Climate Action Fund.

Mike Vasilko
Sixth Ward, Evanston

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