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Cook County Increasing Efforts to Fight Climate Change

Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Special to

Cook County Increasing Efforts to Fight Climate Change

January 22, 2019

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Cook County and the Forest Preserves of Cook County are stepping up the fight against climate change.

Resolutions (Cook County Board and Forest Preserves of Cook County) introduced this week set the ambitious goal of making all County government buildings and other operations carbon neutral by the year 2050 by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, President Preckwinkle has directed Cook County staff to develop a 100 percent renewable energy plan within one year for County buildings and other operations in order to reduce the County’s reliance on non-renewable resources.

Meeting the 100 percent renewable energy goal will likely including as installation of solar panels at County facilities, purchasing renewable energy from off-site installations and subscribing to community solar projects. President Preckwinkle has requested a comprehensive plan to meet the 100 percent goal within a year.

“The fight against climate change begins at the local level. Cook County government has a responsibility to lead in efforts to combat the devastating effects climate change will have in our region,” President Preckwinkle said. “We must take action as responsible stewards of Cook County’s public resources, and must pay particular attention to our most vulnerable neighbors who will feel impacts of this environmental crisis most acutely.”

"This bold leadership is exactly what scientists are urging from all of us, and especially important at a time when our federal government is moving in precisely the opposite, wrong direction," said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. "This bold step builds on years of work by President Preckwinkle to protect taxpayers and the environment by reducing energy waste at county buildings, and brings us closer to a 100 percent clean energy future for Cook County."

According to the National Climate Assessment released last November, Cook County could suffer serious consequences from climate change:

  • Up to two months of days with high temperatures over 100°F, causing more than 2,000 heat-related deaths each year;
  • More concentrated heavy rain and snow storm events that cause street and basement flooding;
  • An increase of up to 120 percent in combined sewer overflows into Lake Michigan by 2100 caused by increased storm events;
  • Greater risk of toxic algae blooms in Lake Michigan, which poison water supply and make beaches unusable, leading to public health risks;
  • Increased heat and erosion from flood events, stressing natural areas and endangering species in the County’s Forest Preserves.

These climate change consequences disproportionately impact poor and minority communities, and vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly.

This initiative aligns with the President’s vision outlined in the Cook County Policy Roadmap, which sets forth a vision for creating a fairer, more equitable Cook County by building vibrant, sustainable and inclusive communities where people want to live, learn, work and play.

Also today, the County released its 2018 Sustainability Report, which outlines current initiatives that have already reduced greenhouse gas emissions from County building energy use by 32 percent since President Preckwinkle took office in 2010. These reductions were achieved primarily through energy efficiency retrofits in County buildings. (See chart.)

The County has already installed solar panels at the Bridgeview Courthouse which are, in part, used to power electric vehicle charging stations. The County is also purchasing Renewable Energy Credits equal to 20 percent of its electricity bills.

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