Chicago mayor's climate plan short on goals
Last week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged to invest $188 million in the environment as part of her 2022 budget proposal.
- She called it "the largest one-time investment in climate mitigation, adaptation, and environmental justice priorities in the city's history."
Yes, but: When Axios asked her for specific climate action goals with deadlines, neither she nor her staff could produce them.
- Instead, her staff showed us a document indicating that Chicago only started to convene stakeholders around developing the plan this summer.
Why it matters: Cities create about 75% of the world's C02 emissions, according to the UN.
- While published targets don't guarantee success, they do increase accountability and can get multiple city agencies moving in the same direction.
Context: Former Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel both launched ambitious Chicago climate action plans while they were in office, with very specific goals and deadlines.
- During the budget address, Lightfoot said some of the $188 million would go toward planting 75,000 new trees in Chicago by 2026.
Also: When Lightfoot campaigned for the job, she dinged her predecessor Emanuel for disbanding the Department of the Environment and said she'd restore it to create a central accountable body for climate action.
- Halfway through her term, we have a chief sustainability officer (as we did under Emanuel) but still no Department of the Environment.
- When we asked for a date for the relaunched department, she didn't have one.
What she's saying: "The process matters, the context matters. And I know you want me to tell you a date, but I'm telling you, we've engaged in a very thoughtful process to really do a survey of where we are as a city, internally, but also our level of engagement with partners in the community that are critically part of our path forward."
Of note: While Lightfoot hasn't released a goal-centered climate action plan, she did tout the city's partnership with regional and international climate plans that include the following measurable goals.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Cook and the collar counties by 80% from 2005 levels by 2050, as part of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus regional plan.
- Reducing Chicago's carbon emissions by about 25% from 2005 levels by 2025 as part of Paris accord commitments signed by Emanuel in 2017.
- Powering all Chicago buildings with renewable energy by 2035 as part of an Emanuel commitment.
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