By: Brian Gill, Federal Policy Director
IEC recently had the pleasure of hosting President Biden’s National Climate Advisor, Ali Zaidi, for a breakfast with leaders from Illinois’ environmental community. It was a fantastic opportunity to flex our collective power by bringing together groups of different constituencies and focuses who all share the mission of creating a cleaner, healthier Illinois. For this event, we convened advocates fighting for environmental justice, clean air, clean energy, and clean transportation from organizations that focus on youth, labor, faith, and more.
Our goal was to share with Ali and the White House directly the most pressing climate challenges we’re facing here in Illinois, the solutions that our diverse experts have identified, and the ways in which support from the White House and federal agencies can help us implement those solutions right here at home.
The discussion covered a lot of ground– the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), incentives to retire coal plants, investments in sustainable transportation, the need to strengthen particulate matter regulations, the Biden Administration’s plans to accelerate the transition to clean energy, and the efforts of grassroots organizations in Illinois to fight climate change and advance environmental justice.
Ali listened intently. He collected our input and has taken it back to President Biden’s team as they continue to build the President’s climate agenda and direct federal resources made available through the Inflation Reduction Act to states who are ready to act on climate. The moment was just another opportunity IEC took to make the case for why those investments should come to Illinois, where because we passed the nation-leading Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), we’re uniquely positioned to return a quick and strategic ROI.
Throughout the day, I also joined Ali in discussions with city officials, ESG investors, and University of Chicago students and faculty. A phrase I heard Ali repeat is that this is the “decisive decade” for climate action– for everyone. The federal government must continue to incentivize clean energy adoption. State and local governments need to follow Illinois’ lead and pass more laws like CEJA. The private sector and manufacturers need to allocate resources to innovate and move their companies in the direction of tackling climate change. Consumers need to hold companies and lawmakers accountable and also take advantage of incentives to be more energy efficient. Everyone must play their part, now, to ensure we meet the moment.
Sometimes it’s hard to be optimistic when thinking about global warming, with United Nations climate reports signaling a code red and extreme weather events taking a toll on so many communities and ecosystems. However, there are so many things that governments, companies, and individuals can do to reverse the course and do so with equity at the forefront.
I came out of the day with Ali with a renewed sense of optimism, and I hope more people embrace their ability to combat climate change in their personal, professional, and political lives. Our collective future depends on it, on all of us.