“Chicago (is) a shining example of how a large city can live in harmony with its environment and as a result, be a better place for all its residents. I am confident that if we address the climate change challenge together, with creativity and boldness, then our city will continue to lead the world in designing a path to a more secure future.” - Mayor Richard M. Daley
Never one to sit on the sidelines, Chicago is addressing climate change head on, by pledging to beat by 25% the Kyoto Protocol for lowering greenhouse gas emissions. [The recommended baseline levels in the Kyoto Protocol are 1990 levels].
Chicago’s policies do not stop at limiting the damage we’re doing to our natural environment; they also open a horizon into the future.
Over the past 10 years, Chicago with quiet stealth has been sowing the seeds for a new type of economy — one that is pro-growth, pro-technology and pro-environment. And, yes, in Chicago, it is the promise of jobs that are putting much of the “go” into green. Catalyzing the jobs are initiatives that make the city more beautiful, livelier and more active. Chicago and Chicagoans are finding mind-boggling ways to get together and go green.
Environmentally conscious Chicagoans are gathering at community gardens, at lively green drinks meetings several times a month and at training and educational sessions at the Chicago Center for Green Technology.
If the Mayor’s Office of the Environment headed by Sadhu Johnston is the policy brain, and Mayor Daley himself is the muscle that pulls support from Chicago’s robust business community, then the Chicago Center for Green Technology is the body, the place where it all comes together.
The third U.S. building to be designed for the highest LEED rating, Chicago Green Tech is home to organizations and businesses committed to the environment. Greencorps Chicago, the city's community gardening and job training program and WRD Environmental, an urban landscape company, all have offices at Chicago Green Tech.
But most of all, Chicago Green Tech is a place to learn. The building and campus are open for visitors to explore and to learn how green buildings are good for people and good for the environment. Visitors leave knowing how to incorporate environmentally friendly, cost- saving features into their home or business.
All of this is working together to make Chicago a more beautiful and vibrant place. It’s all about sustainable urbanism.
In recent years, Chicago has planted more than a half million trees, removing air pollution created by about 40,000 cars a year. It’s also created more than 80 miles of planted medians. To make cycling easier, the City created 150 miles of new bike paths and new lanes. Its rapid transit system — although not without its budget challenges — carries millions around the metropolitan area every day.
Every man-made aspect of the city — from the alleys to the rooftops — are scrutinized and adjusted for how they function and impact the waste stream, consume energy or protect a healthy living environment. In fact, the alleys are green — made of porous pavement so they absorb storm water rather than send it to the sewer system. But it’s Chicago’s green roofs that are perhaps the most spectacular evidence of Chicago’s green values. Roof top gardens have sprouted on most city owned buildings, and the green roof phenomenon has spread to another 4 million square feet of roofs.
When on Sept. 18, 2008, the City unveiled its Chicago Climate Action Plan, a detailed strategy to help lower greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change, it was the first in the nation to detail emission sources and propose specific solutions. Chicago brought in some of the world's leading climatologists to better understand what climate change would do to the city. Instead of looking away from what the climatologist saw, the City is addressing it head on. What they saw was a hotter, drier climate in Chicago, with a similar amount of precipitation annually, but coming in extreme storm bursts. Chicago could see a lot more flooding in the future.
The City is adapting to those changes in its built infrastructure, emergency response services and long-term planning. Four operational areas of the city create greenhouse gases: buildings, transportation, energy and waste pollution. The Chicago Climate Plan outlines 29 actions to mitigate these gases.
Having a good plan means the City can take advantage of new funding sources as they arise. But more importantly, Chicago is counting on partnerships with business to create the new technologies — from large-scale solar energy installations to windmills — that lead to a cleaner environmental future.
Chicago brought in some of the world's leading climatologists to better understand what climate change would do to the city. What they saw was a hotter, drier climate in Chicago, with a similar amount of precipitation annually, but coming in extreme stormbursts. Chicago could see a lot more flooding in the future. The City is adapting to those changes in its built infrastructure, emergency response services and long-term planning.