Despite federal rollbacks, Illinois can write its own climate, clean energy future

State leaders, including many in Illinois, are embracing action to promote clean energy and address climate change despite the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back common sense limits on pollution.

In Illinois we have an opportunity to act as a bulwark against wrong-headed policies promulgated in Washington. Indeed, state leaders are currently considering legislation that would make Illinois a clean energy leader, with benefits that communities across the state would share.

Illinois’ Clean Energy Jobs Act is built around four pillars of sound and forward-thinking policy. It calls for Illinois to:

  1. Run on 100% clean energy by 2050.
  2. End its carbon-emitting power sector by 2030.
  3. Electrify the transportation sector.
  4. Allocate the economic benefits of clean energy equitably in regions throughout Illinois, including those traditionally left behind in the effort to build jobs.

Currently, the bill is co-sponsored by 50 members of the state House and 30 members of the state Senate. Gov. Pritzker has previously voiced his support for the goal of 100% clean energy by 2050. Additionally, the bill has the support of thousands of “citizen co-sponsors” from communities across the state.Despite federal rollbacks, Illinois can write its own climate, clean energy future Click To Tweet

A recent poll by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition of 500 Illinois voters showed that nearly 7 in 10 (68%) supported the Clean Energy Jobs Act, including 61% of Independents and nearly half (48%) of Republicans.

Aside from legislation, the state is taking action through other measures. In August, Gov. Pritzker signed into law legislation repealing Illinois’ Kyoto Protocol Act of 1998, which prohibited Illinois from taking steps to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions unless the Kyoto Protocol Treaty was ratified by the United States Senate. The Kyoto Protocol Treaty, negotiated as an expansion of United Nations Framework Convention on Global Climate Change in 1997, has never been ratified by the United States Senate. Again, this demonstrates that the state is not powerless to enact positive change even in the face of the Trump administration’s attempts to prop up fossil fuels.

States have a lot of power over the energy future. For example, energy efficiency programs — the cheapest form of carbon emissions reductions — are funded by state laws, and renewable energy policy is carried out at the state level. While the actions of the Trump administration will impact our environment, our governors and state lawmakers hold a tremendous amount of sway in determining whether this generation tackles climate change, or whether we watch as its effects drastically change our planet, our economy and our public health.

Some states have acted. Lawmakers in New York recently adopted standards calling for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 and economy-wide net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This spring, Colorado’s governor signed seven climate and energy bills, as well as four electric vehicle bills. He also announced a roadmap that would set the state on a path to 100% renewable energy by 2040. This year, New Jersey outlined a plan that would convert the state to 100% clean energy by 2050.

Illinois is on its way to being a national leader in clean energy development, and now is the time to turn the priorities of Illinois communities into reality. We must help our legislators see that they hold the key to our energy future – one that begins with passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

By Christie Hicks

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