Climate change is a national and international concern. GHGs form a protective barrier that traps heat and provides a livable climate on earth, but as emissions increase, more trapped heat leads to negative environmental impacts. Burning fossil fuels, clearing forests and prairies, and other human activities have increased GHGs, while natural and human mitigation efforts have failed to keep pace. Because our own activities contribute to climate change, the region's residents, businesses, utilities, and institutions must actively work to reduce emissions and diminish future impacts. In 2015, the most recent year for which data exists, northeastern Illinois emitted 119 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. In total, this amounts to 14 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per capita from stationary energy, transportation, industry, solid waste, and wastewater. Stationary energy and transportation account for 97 percent of the region’s emissions. In 2015, building energy, including natural gas and electricity, was responsible for 69 percent of all GHG emissions in the region. On-road transportation, which includes public, private, and commercial motor vehicles, was the second-largest source of emissions. The differences in the region’s built environment, housing density, related energy consumption, and travel behavior help explain the variable emissions across the region.
[GRAPHIC TO COME: A chart will show 2015 Greenhouse gas emissions inventory with indicator targets.]
Creating resilient and livable communities requires intensified efforts to reduce and mitigate emissions that contribute to climate change. GO TO 2040 emphasized climate mitigation as a co-benefit inherent to its recommendations for land use, environment, housing, and transportation. Compact infill development, improved pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, increased investments in public transit, more efficient consumption of energy, and proliferation of renewable energy generation systems all contribute to climate mitigation, not to mention reduced congestion. In addition, communities can mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration through vegetation and soils. A CMAP-supported Chicago Wilderness study estimating ecosystem service values within the region found that a large tree can remove more than 1,000 pounds of CO2 per year. In total, the region’s green infrastructure contributes to carbon sequestration valued at an estimated $11.5 million each year. ON TO 2050 calls for conserving 400,000 acres of open space by 2050 and continues to strongly support the climate mitigation strategies of GO TO 2040.
Transformative changes in the energy sector -- from closed coal power plants to solar and other renewable industries to fuel efficient vehicles -- offer the promise of substantial reductions in emissions. Regional stakeholders should prepare for and harness these changes to ensure benefits to all residents. Through a socioeconomic lens, research suggests that low income communities spend a disproportionate share of their income on energy costs, and communities of color have historically suffered from greater exposure to the local environmental impacts of energy generation and consumption. Understanding and addressing the financial, environmental, and social needs of these users, as well as other vulnerable groups like seniors, will be critical to avoid perpetuating inequities in the future.
ON TO 2050 sets GHG reduction targets in line with global goals to place the world on a “stabilization path,” the approximate emissions trajectory needed to constrain temperatures to a global mean increase of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This translates to a reduction of emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. To achieve that goal, the Chicago region, as well as the State and federal governments, will need to intensify climate mitigation in a variety of ways. In addition to the strategies listed here, the array of environmental strategies presented elsewhere in this chapter can help the region mitigate and adapt to climate change. For example, an integrated approach to water resources, where water is conserved and reused, can reduce the energy consumption associated with water treatment, distribution, and wastewater treatment. On the other end of the spectrum, preserving and enhancing the region’s natural areas and retrofitting our built environment with green infrastructure helps retain and expand the natural carbon sequestration services these areas provide.
The following subsection describes strategies and actions to implement this recommendation.