Environmental groups push cities for clean energy
Illinois Sierra Club leads formation of Ready for 100 Chicago Collective with eyes also on other state cities such as Evanston
By Ted Cox
Dozens of environmental, community, and union groups formed an umbrella organization Tuesday calling for Chicago to commit to entirely clean and renewable energy.
The Ready for 100 Chicago Collective, however, also looks to get other Illinois cities to make the commitment, with Evanston possibly moving on the issue next week.
“We really need to consider how we go about making sure this transition happens,” said Kyra Woods of the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter in announcing the Ready for 100 Chicago Collective Tuesday evening in an event at Uptake on the city’s North Side.
The local Ready for 100 group — referring to 100 percent clean and renewable energy — includes the Citizens Utility Board, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Chicago United for Equity, Bronzeville Urban Development, the Paul Douglas Institute at the University of Chicago, and the Climate Reality Project Chicago Chapter, among others.
Woods said their goal is “amplifying success” they’ve already had in initiatives to address climate change and getting cities to commit to moving toward entirely clean energy.
“That looks different in each city,” she added, emphasizing that it’s a nationwide environmental movement looking to make inroads in Illinois, with Chicago as a leading example. It would become the largest city to adopt the Ready for 100 commitment, surpassing St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Denver.
“In Chicago,” Woods said, “our solution is not going to look like New York’s, is not going to look like a smaller city’s.”
She applauded Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration for taking the lead on green roofs, in buildings showing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and in moving the city toward hybrid cars in its fleet of taxis. “The Emanuel administration has a really great arc so far,” Woods said, including a commitment made last year to power all city buildings with clean energy by 2025, which would account for 8 percent of Chicago.
Yet business investment is required to move all of Chicago toward clean energy, she added, “and that goes hand in hand with politics, particularly in this city.”
The upcoming municipal election poses what Woods called “a tricky situation, for sure,” in that the issue could cut either way. But she called on Emanuel to set the stage for his successor to build on his environmental successes.
“We need strong action that is more than just hybrid taxis,” Woods said. “How do we get people out of their cars and taking public transportation?
“People are looking for Chicago to be the trendsetter,” Woods added.
WLS-TV Channel 7 anchor-reporter Ravi Baichwal played host to Tuesday’s event, and cited this year’s massive hurricanes, California wildfires, and December tornadoes in Illinois as showing the need to address climate change — confirmed in a recent federal report, much as President Trump might try to dismiss it.
According to Woods, 99 U.S. cities have committed to 100 percent clean energy in the years to come, with the race on to be the 100th. No Illinois city has made the leap yet, but Kady McFadden, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter, said the Evanston City Council is slated to take up the issue at its meeting Monday.