“There’s an opportunity right now for a massive infrastructure investment plan that would upgrade electricity systems and public transportation, and electrify our industries. That could create immediate employment and long-term economic value, and shift the world to a low-carbon future.” Emily Kirsch, CEO and Founder, Powerhouse
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hinder economic progress throughout northeastern Illinois and the nation, disrupting many people’s livelihoods in the process. Economic recovery and stabilization, followed by massive stimulus to restart the economy, are urgently needed. An infusion of public funding, combined with a comprehensive policy approach at the federal and state levels, could lead us through the ongoing climate crisis and move us toward a sustainable future.
In line with global climate goals, ON TO 2050, the long-range plan for northeastern Illinois, set a target for the region to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (Figure 1). To achieve that target, the region will need to work with state and federal officials to reverse the effects of our business-as-usual trajectory. Climate change is a disruptive force, compounding and exacerbating existing environmental, transportation, and other challenges. As one example, more frequent and severe floods in recent years have caused major road, rail, and utility outages; disrupted freight activity; and added financial burdens on residents and businesses, particularly in disinvested communities.
Through intentional investments in a low-carbon future, our region can strengthen its resilience, make northeastern Illinois more competitive globally, and equip our diverse workforce with skills that can meet modern demands. Stimulus funding could spring new job opportunities in clean energy, one of the country’s fastest growing industries. A clean electricity system over the next 15 years could support more than a half million new net jobs per year, add $1.7 trillion into the national economy, and boost domestic manufacturing. One study found that five additional jobs would be created with every $1 million in spending shifted from fossil fuels to clean energy. The pandemic presents a rare opportunity for policymakers not only to stabilize the economy in the near future, but transform it in a sustainable way.