The region’s natural environment and resources are some of the most valuable and irreplaceable assets in northeastern Illinois, contributing to a high quality of life and supporting a vibrant regional economy.
A region prepared for climate change
Climate change, manifesting in our region as more frequent and severe storms, extreme temperatures, and drought, is already significantly affecting our economy, ecosystems, built environment, and people. Increased flooding and heat strains our roads, rail, and other infrastructure. ON TO 2050 recommends intensifying climate mitigation efforts and reducing greenhouse gases, while at the same time preparing for and equipping communities to recover from the acute shocks and chronic stresses of climate change. Mitigation will require aggressive efforts to modernize our energy infrastructure and address emissions caused by transportation. Planning for climate change requires rethinking the region’s green and gray infrastructure, as the region’s roadway, water, and energy systems were designed using standards that predate the increased number of heavy rain events, freeze-thaw cycles, and hotter and wetter conditions.
Federal and state actions to bolster climate resilience by investing in a more flexible and decentralized electric grid, such as the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program.
State of Illinois coordination of funding, programming, data, and models for climate resilience among state environmental agencies — including the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS), Illinois State Climatologist, Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).
Federal and state policy to uphold the U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement, expanding renewable energy and efficiency programs, exploring market mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and transitioning to renewable resources.
State of Illinois implementation of the emissions reduction policies of the Future Energy Jobs Act and programs to promote energy conservation.
Federal and state policies that enable the transportation system to reduce emissions, including electrification of commercial fleets and transit systems.
An integrated approach to water resources
The region’s water resources play an essential role in sustaining economic prosperity, environmental health, and quality of life — yet the region’s policies do not adequately reflect their real and inherent value. As a result, the region continues to suffer major flood damage and degraded water quality, while growth and development strains our drinking water supply. Access to clean and reliable water differs across the region, and water infrastructure investments lag behind public health needs. Policymakers must incorporate an integrated approach to water resources to keep the region’s waters clean for people and wildlife, reduce flood risks, and coordinate and conserve shared water supply resources to ensure long-term sustainability.
State of Illinois development of a comprehensive state plan to guide programs that integrate water supply, water quality, stormwater, and aquatic habitat programs, as well as providing adequate funding for these initiatives.
State of Illinois coordination of data collection, tracking, and research for water resources and infrastructure among various agencies, including IEPA, IDNR, Illinois Department of Public Health, ISWS, Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois Natural History Survey, watershed working groups, and other watershed organizations.
Federal reforms to water quality and stormwater management that address non-point source pollution.
State of Illinois water infrastructure investments that promote safe drinking water, reduce water loss, increase resource recovery and closed-loop systems, improve the Illinois Clean Water Initiative, better support low-resource communities in need, and implement water infrastructure asset management.
Federal investments that maintain the health, recreational use, and economic benefits of Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes, such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Coastal Zone Management Program, Water Resources Development Acts, and efforts to prevent invasive species transfer.
Federal and state reforms to modernize policies related to flooding, including making risk information available for property sales, and reforming the National Flood Insurance Program to develop long-term solutions for properties that are at high risk of flooding.
State of Illinois action to foster regional water coordination efforts modeled after the Northwest Water Planning Alliance to explore ways to coordinate withdrawals and management of shared water resources with neighbors.
Development practices that protect natural resources
Natural areas provide places for recreation, habitats for native flora and fauna, air pollutant filtration, flood reduction, urban heat island mitigation, and groundwater recharge, while at the same time creating more desirable, healthy, and resilient communities. Climate pressures and development threaten the region’s natural assets. Development continues to convert natural and agricultural land, fragmenting our open spaces. ON TO 2050 envisions a future where development practices and infrastructure embrace natural landscapes. The region needs policies that incentivize infill and reinvestment in communities, address contamination, and promote conservation of open space for the health of the natural and built environments. Policymakers should leverage tools such as CMAP’s Flood Susceptibility Index, Conservation Areas Local Strategy Map, and the Green Infrastructure Vision to target environmental investments that meet multiple goals, like providing access to open space and mitigating flooding.
Federal and state programs that encourage redevelopment and enable local governments to deploy sustainable development practices.
Federal and state action to address environmental challenges that disproportionately affect specific populations and disinvested areas.
Federal and state protection and stewardship of high-priority natural areas by continuing to fund IDNR and land managers via the Open Space Lands Acquisition Development (OSLAD) Program, the Natural Areas Acquisition Fund (NAAF), and the Coastal Management Program.
Federal and state innovative financing mechanisms to support open space protection and enhancements.
State of Illinois expansion of conservation efforts through land trusts and conservation easements, and development of a statewide policy for conserving agricultural lands.
State of Illinois expansion of programs that promote sustainable agricultural practices, encouraging crop diversity and protecting water resources.