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June 15, 2010 Government and Politics

Evanston Recognized by U.S. Conference of Mayors for Efforts to Fight Climate Change

From: City Of Evanston
EVANSTON, IL---Evanston receives Honorable Mention in the 2010 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards, a program sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Wal-Mart, Inc. The Awards Program recognizes mayors for innovative practices in their cities designed to increase energy efficiency and curb global warming. An independent panel of judges selected the winners from a pool of 140 applicants.

“This is a great honor for the residents of Evanston to receive recognition for its efforts and reaffirms our commitment as a community working collaboratively to guarantee a cleaner, greener and healthier environment for future generations,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

In 2006, the Evanston City Council adopted a strategic plan that included a commitment to sustainable practices and infrastructure as key goals. Later that year, the Council voted unanimously to sign the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, an initiative launched in 2005 that invites cities to ‘meet or beat’ the targets of the 2005 Kyoto Protocol. The goal: to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012.

Achieving this goal required a plan. While the city has a key role to play as a strategic partner, the success of the city’s efforts would depend largely on the involvement of local institutions, businesses and residents. Similar to most communities across the county, the city is facing declining revenues and budget shortfalls. Aside from a dedicated full-time staff, the City’s Sustainable Programs Coordinator, the city did not have the resources available to allocate a budget for the development of a climate action plan.

“Faced with limited resources, Evanston got creative and turned to the community to develop a viable plan for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions,” said Carolyn Collopy, Evanston’s Sustainability Coordinator. “Evanston’s experience serves as a replicable model for communities of similar size and resources, demonstrating climate change can be addressed at the local level in challenging economic times.”

The city embarked on a unique, collaborative partnership with a local grass-roots sustainability coalition, the Network for Evanston’s Future. Nine task forces were established; each with one City and two community co-chairs, and the planning process was launched at a public meeting in November 2007. Participants were invited to join one of the nine task forces and help develop the recommendations of the Evanston Climate Action Plan (ECAP).

In a remarkable display of community action, task force members spent months researching options and determining which measures would be the most cost-effective to pursue based on the associated emissions reductions, costs, existing resources and community priorities. Heavy emphasis was placed on identifying strategies that leveraged existing programs, initiatives and resources to ensure implementation would be possible in the absence of funding.

The resulting plan was organized into nine focus areas and outlines more than 200 strategies for reducing Evanston's GHG emissions. The nine focus areas are: Transportation & Land Use, Energy Efficiency & Buildings, Renewable Energy Resources, Waste Reduction & Recycling, Forestry, Prairie & Carbon Offsets, Food Production & Distribution, Policy & Research, Education & Engagement and Communications & Public Relations.

Added together, the proposed strategies had the potential to reduce Evanston’s emissions by nearly twice the reduction target established by the community-wide GHG emissions inventory. A draft of the ECAP was presented to the community in 2008 for public comment and was adopted by Council later that year.

“Since its adoption, action has been taken to implement 98 of the 219 strategies outlined in the ECAP. The city has taken the lead on most of these efforts, but many strategies are being implemented by the community,” explained Collopy. “A citizen group was formed through the ECAP development process to focus solely on the implementation of the plan through direct outreach and action and through local legislative advocacy. In 2009, the Council reconfirmed its commitment to the plan by identifying the ECAP as one of twelve of its top priorities for the city.”

Some of the highlights since the adoption of the ECAP include:

- The establishment of the Evanston Climate Action Fund, a fund that is managed by the Evanston Community Foundation and uses community donations to finance energy efficiency improvements. The fund targets low and hard to reach residents and non-profits.

- Evanston passed a green building ordinance that includes a USGBC LEED Silver certification requirement for all new municipal, commercial and multi-family buildings over 10,000 sqft.

- Evanston Fire Station #5 became the first fire station in state and eleventh in the nation to receive the USGBC LEED Gold Certification.

- Targeted outreach to the business community to invest in electric efficiency measures with utility funded incentives – 48 projects were approved in the past year for $214,133 worth of incentives and an estimated annual energy savings of 3,425,177 kWh.

- Establishment of a residential weatherization grant program with $250,000 of the City’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program funding.

- The formation of the Evanston Green Ribbon Committee, a working committee of representatives from the largest seven institutions in Evanston, representing 35% of Evanston’s employment, to collaboratively support and drive implementation of the ECAP.

- The completion of a year long effort to convert the city’s 18-gallon recycling containers to 65 and 95-gallon containers as part of the expansion of its Residential Recycling Program. $120,000 in grant funding was secured through the IL Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (IL DCEO) to support the effort.

- Distribution of 15,000 Compact Fluorescent Lights to Evanston residents.

- Installation of the City’s first permeable alley, municipal eco-roof and municipal solar panels (a 25kW system).

- The addition of a two new farmers market and 9 community food gardens.

Additionally, Evanston is an Energy Star Partner and pledge driver, currently ranked number one in Illinois and second nation wide (as a local government) in the amount of pounds of GHG emissions saved thus far for 2010-2011.

“By signing the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, conducting a GHG emissions inventory and initiating the implementation of a local climate action plan, Evanston has taken the first important steps in addressing climate change. Evanston is one of only two Illinois cities that has taken these steps thus far,” concluded Collopy.

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