By: Iyana Simba, City Programs Director
The Illinois Environmental Council congratulates incoming Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson on their recent election victory. We are excited to begin working with you on building the sustainable and healthy environment that all Chicagoans deserve.
Still on the heels of 2021’s Climate and Equitable Jobs Act passage in Illinois and President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, the message from every level of government is clear: we need bold climate action now. In the city of Chicago, there is no time to wait. We urge Mayor-elect Johnson to begin the important work of environmentalism swiftly.
The previous administration passed budgets with historically significant funding to environmental programs, including the single largest one-time investment in the environment in Chicago history in 2021; state and federal funding has additionally been allocated with climate action in mind. The stage has been set for Chicago to take critical action on the environment, and with a new mayor taking office, we hope to see these opportunities taken full advantage of.
In January, IEC released its 2023 Environmental Mayoral Report, outlining the key environmental issues and potential solutions facing the city’s next Mayor. As per this report, IEC calls on incoming Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson to do the following in his first 100 days in office:
- Re-establish Chicago’s Department of Environment. It has been over a decade now since the City of Chicago disbanded its Department of Environment, and since then, we’ve seen environmental work scattered across departments, enforcement of environmental regulations dip drastically, and polluting industry given freer reign to turn particularly Black, Brown and low-income communities into dumping grounds.
- Pass a Plan to Electrify all Chicago Buildings. Although our state is on a path to 100% clean energy by 2045, there are plenty of obstacles ahead. A major one being buildings: more than two-thirds of all of Chicago’s emissions come from our buildings. With fossil fuel prices on the rise, our city needs a plan to electrify our buildings for more affordable solutions that are safer, cleaner, and better for our climate.
- Complete the Cumulative Impact Assessment and pass a cumulative impact ordinance that will reform zoning, planning and permitting processes for industrial areas so that communities are no longer overburdened by pollution.
- Accelerate the removal of Chicago’s nearly 400,000 lead service lines. Since the 2020 launch of the city lead pipe replacement programs, only 300 have been replaced to date. We need to replace toxic lead pipes quickly and prioritize replacement for daycare facilities and communities at high risk of lead exposure, and include assistance that makes replacement affordable for low-income homeowners.
Chicagoans are starting to see the greater impacts of climate change – longer, hotter heat waves, polar vortexes, more frequent, intense storms, and increased flooding. It’s time for the city to rise to the challenge and take the bold action we need to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis as we build a more sustainable and resilient Chicago.