With help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a caucus of Chicago’s metropolitan mayors on July 13 released one of the first regional climate plans in the United States. It calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 2005 levels by 2050, and highlights ways to equitably build climate resilience and a vibrant economy at the municipal level by 2050.
The 2021 Climate Action Plan for the Chicago Region, co-authored by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and the NOAA Climate Program Office, will serve a region which is home to nearly 9 million people in more than 280 cities, towns, and villages.
“This climate action plan is an excellent step toward achieving a net-zero, climate-resilient economy for the Chicago metro region. This plan can serve as a national model for metropolitan areas across the country,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves. “Ambitious pushes like this will unleash climate innovation, leading to better technologies and good-paying jobs.”
The plan documents current climate conditions, sets emissions targets, calls municipal leaders to action, and describes strategies for successful implementation. Reforms in utility energy production, building energy efficiency, transportation, and water and waste management are necessary to achieve the emissions reduction target. A multitude of local stakeholders contributed to the plan for over 16 months, ensuring the final product would be comprehensive, ambitious, and equitable. A total of 270 people from 175 organizations, including representatives of 53 municipalities and counties, as well as civic leaders focused on equity, participated in workshops and contributed to the development of this plan.
“We pursue the inaugural Climate Action Plan for the Chicago Region with full knowledge that our work will be years in the making and our success may not be achieved in our lifetimes,” said Mayor Kevin Burns, City of Geneva, Illinois, one of the plan’s lead contributors. “Regardless, we must begin and begin now.”
The plan notes that the climate crisis has never been more urgent; this is the decisive decade for addressing it. NOAA research indicates that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations—the primary driver of global warming—continued to climb in 2020 despite the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic.
“The Chicago Region’s plan can serve as a model for multijurisdictional, regional collaboration on climate action,” said Richard W. Spinrad, PhD, NOAA administrator. “NOAA stands ready to facilitate the development of similar plans across the United States.”
The initial impetus for the plan came in summer 2019, when the Chicago metro region, along with three other U.S. regions, was selected by the European Union to participate in a pilot project to demonstrate regional climate planning and commit to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM). The Metropolitan Mayors Caucus requested support from NOAA after attending a presentation by NOAA’s Climate Program Office on its community-scale assessment and potential uses of the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit’s Steps to Resilience.
Now that the plan has been released, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus will support metropolitan Chicago communities as they are encouraged to take strategic actions outlined in the plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost resilience. The caucus will encourage community-scale assessment and planning using the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.