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Questions or comments? Contact Kristin Ihnchak.

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Sustainability and Climate Change

To achieve a more vibrant and livable future, a community's plans and policies should consider short- and long-term impacts on the "three Es" of sustainability: environment, economy, and equity. Since these three elements are inherently interconnected, sustainability planning encompasses a wide variety of topics in practice.

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Planning Efforts

Many of CMAP's initiatives relate to sustainability planning, such as our work pertaining to sustainable local food, energy and water conservation, and natural resources. CMAP's Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program is also helping communities around the region, including Park ForestNiles, and Lake County, to create plans that specifically address topics related to sustainability. These plans serve as roadmaps to guide future decision-making in a manner that is consistent with sustainable practices. 

Proactively addressing the impacts of climate change is integral to achieving long-term sustainability. Improving the resilience of existing built and natural environments ensures that communities are better prepared to deal with more frequent extreme weather events, increased heat waves, and other expected climate impacts. CMAP has developed a Climate Adaptation Guidebook to provide municipal governments with strategies for adapting public infrastructure and services in light of anticipated climate changes in the region.
To facilitate planning for sustainability in communities around the region, CMAP is currently developing a model sustainability plan toolkit through its Local Ordinances and Toolkits program for use by communities who are developing such plans in-house. The toolkit will provide step-by-step instructions for how to create a sustainability plan, as well as various references and resources for further information. 

About Sustainability

Sustainability is an umbrella term that includes a wide universe of topics. One commonly accepted definition is that sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to reach their own needs; planners typically discuss sustainability as it relates to the environment. CMAP has many programs and initiatives relating to sustainability and planning, such as work pertaining to sustainable local food, energy and water conservation, and open spaces. In addition, CMAP also helps communities plan for sustainability more broadly by aiding in the creation of sustainability plans and climate adaptation plans through the LTA program.
Sustainability planning is an emerging niche in the field of urban planning -- only a handful of communities in our region have created such plans to proactively deal with environmental issues. A sustainability plan contains goals, policies and/or strategies, indicators, and implementation direction on key related topic areas, which are chosen by the community. Key topic areas could include (but are not limited to) land use and development, transportation, open space, natural resources, waste, water, energy, greenhouse gases, climate change, local food, municipal policies, and education. 
Ideally, measurable indicators are included in a sustainability plan to help assess future progress toward the community's goals and ensure accountability for implementation. First, "baseline" indicators are established to quantify the community's existing conditions (such as current acres of open space or greenhouse gas emissions per capita). Next, "target" indicators are crafted to set achievable yet progressive quantitative goals for the future (such as a goal for increased open space or reduced emissions per capita). Systematically tracking and reporting these indicators is important to ensure that communities can establish and achieve their sustainability goals.
Climate change may either be addressed as part of a larger sustainability planning effort or through a separate planning process. While communities in the Chicago region are likely to face similar climate impacts, their vulnerability to those impacts will vary depending on differences in geographic conditions and local resources. For instance, places situated on floodplains are naturally at greater risk for flooding. Instituting better building codes, developing green infrastructure to absorb storm surges, and effectively preparing emergency response mobilization can drastically reduce vulnerability during major storms. CMAP's Climate Adaptation Guidebook aims to equip communities with the capacity, resources, and know-how to implement sustainable solutions, mitigate emissions, and adapt to a changing climate. 


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