New Illinois Law Could Allow More Aggressive Climate Action

A new Illinois state law could allow more aggressive action to be taken by the state against climate change.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Aug. 15 signed a bill, which repeals the Kyoto Protocol Act of 1998. The Kyoto Protocol Act previously barred Illinois from reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions beyond the standards set by the federal government.

However, the U.S. withdrew from the treaty in 2001, which left Illinois bound to standards that no longer even applied to the federal government.

With this new law, Illinois can set its own restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, allowing lawmakers to tackle climate change in a more state-specific way.

Aaron Durnbaugh, the director of sustainability at Loyola University Chicago’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability, said Illinois currently faces ramifications from climate change. These impacts range from increased frequency and intensity of precipitation events to the threat of more heat waves over a longer period of time.

“We’re seeing climate change every day,” Durnbaugh said. “Here in Chicagoland, it’s a little bit more nuanced and sophisticated.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also released key findings on climate change in Illinois. For example, since the beginning of the twentieth century, the state’s average temperature has increased about one degree Fahrenheit.

The agricultural sector is particularly vulnerable to these climate change impacts, especially extreme precipitation events, according to the report. These variations in precipitation, leading to periods of flooding and drought, have led to billions in losses in recent years.

State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) sponsored the bill in the General Assembly. She’s currently working on another piece of legislation that takes significant steps toward addressing humans’ climate impact: the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

The proposed act wants to push Illinois to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The bill also provides a network of training centers for communities of color and those of low income, training those interested for jobs in the renewable energy sector.

The bill also calls for a carbon-free power sector by 2030.

“The heart of CEJA is creating jobs and equity, really looking at communities that have suffered,” Gabel said.

Gabel said the bill still needs to be discussed into 2020.

According to Tyler Barron, a policy fellow at the Midwest-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, there are three areas of importance for statewide policy action.

First, there’s political will, which means getting people with enough power in the right places to take action on an issue. The second area of focus is money. Green energy, according to Barron, is becoming competitive on the market with traditional fossil fuels, and the government could help facilitate that transition to greener energy. Finally, Barron said policymakers must figure out how to decarbonize in non-traditional areas, such as the fertilization process.

He also added that there exists more potential now for places to take action on climate change, because they can rely on and build off of other locations’ climate action successes.

“The real potential here is the fact that everything here is becoming increasingly connected,” Barron said. “As you become more interconnected, these cities can become more ambitious in the way they approach their climate goals because they don’t have to start from square one.”


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