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Lightfoot’s Climate Action Plan calls for “a zero-emission transportation network”

7:30 PM CDT on April 22, 2022

The Bloomingdale Trail, opened in summer 2015. One of the goals of the climate plan is to “improve air quality by expanding the city’s walk, bike, and transit options.” Photo: John Greenfield

Given that Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot recently called our multi-modal metropolis "a car city," and is currently advancing a plan to spend $7.5 million in taxpayer money on free gas cards, in effect paying people to create more greenhouse emissions, you could be forgiven for assuming that she doesn't give a hoot about climate change.

But let's give her the benefit of the doubt and take a look at today's announcement from the mayor's office about Lightfoot's 2022 Climate Action Plan, which the city is billing as a "community-informed plan to mitigate climate-change impacts and position Chicago as a job-creator and economic leader in new economy." The actual document will be released later this year.

The mayor heralded the document at an Earth Day event with aldermen and other community leaders at Plant Chicago, a sustainable food business incubator building in Back of the Yards founded by my longtime Chicago Critical Mass crony John Edel. According to city officials, in 2008 under then-mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago became the first major U.S. city to develop an all-encompassing climate action plan, and the purpose of the new document is to "reposition Chicago as a global leader in climate action and economic growth."

Along with using greenhouse gas emissions inventory data, Lightfoot's office led the development of the 2022 plan by hosting listening sessions, virtual town halls, and an open comment period that collected feedback from over 2,100 residents, according to officials. City departments and sister agencies were also enlisted to help define the plan's goals.

The results are in! This year, Chicagoans were invited to share their climate priorities- and they delivered! From interactive virtual town halls, two online surveys, facilitated conversations with community partners, and comments on the draft plan, over 2,100 Chicagoans from 70+ community areas helped shape the format and content of the plan. Here are the top priorities from the Fund Your Future activity.
How each dollar of funding to fight climate change in Chicago should be allocated, according to community input for the CAP. Image: City of Chicago

“Now more than ever before, cities across the world have a responsibility and moral obligation to take action and prioritize protecting residents and businesses from climate impacts." Lightfoot said in a statement. “Chicago is no exception. The 2022 Climate Action Plan demonstrates a commitment to pursue ambitious climate action in ways that deliver meaningful community-level benefits. We can alleviate historic environmental burdens and invest in community health, safety, and resilience by equitably investing in critical clean energy infrastructure and nature-based solutions, catalyzing a workforce prepared for all facets of the green economy, and encouraging innovative new types of economic growth and job creation.”

According to city officials, the 2022 CAP builds on Lightfoot’s budget for this year, which includes the $188 million earmarked for  climate mitigation in the Chicago Recovery Plan’s, and sets a goal of reducing emissions in Chicago 62 percent by 2040.

Regardless, the Climate Action Plan initiative, which the city says will focus on improvements to African-American, Latino, lower-income, and working-class neighborhoods, has gotten some kind words from local sustainability and environmental justice advocates.

“Equiticity is pleased to see the 2022 Climate Action Plan’s firm commitment to make walking, biking, and transit access more viable for racially marginalized communities,” said Oboi Reed head of the mobility justice nonprofit Equiticity in a statement. “Our ‘Go Hub: A Community Mobility Center,’ located in North Lawndale, brings together hardware – bikes, scooters, and other infrastructure – with software – Community Mobility Rituals and advocacy to increase mobility in a neighborhood experiencing severe transportation inequity. Racial equity, mobility justice, and environmental justice are all inextricably linked, and require ambition and coordination to improve life outcomes for Black, Brown, and working communities.”

Check out materials related to the 2022 Climate Action Plan here, and let us know what you think in the comments section.

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