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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy today welcomed municipal leaders from across the world to the North American Climate Summit. Mayors and global climate leaders will gather to sign the Chicago Climate Charter, a first-of-its-kind international charter on climate change.
"From closing coal plants, to investing in electric vehicles and public transportation, to reducing electricity usage in our buildings, to updating streetlights across the city, Chicago is showcasing to the world the impact that cities can have on climate change for their residents and for people around the world,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I am proud to stand together with the leading global city climate networks including the Global Covenant of Mayors, Climate Mayors and C40 to take decisive action to improve our environment while bettering our communities, and that begins right here.”
The Summit brings together leaders from the United States, Canada and Mexico to articulate commitments to the Paris Agreement. Mayor Emanuel is joined by Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo; Mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee; Mayor of Mexico City, Miguel Ángel Mancera; Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante; Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson; Mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton; and nearly 50 Mayors from around the world for the 2-day event.
“It is encouraging to see cities like Chicago take ambitious steps towards creating a 21st century sustainable economy for their residents while taking an active role in the global climate change conversation,” said Christiana Figueres, Vice-Chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors. “Cities have a growing impact on climate action, and together at the North American Climate Summit, leaders will take significant strides towards reducing carbon emissions and showing that local action is being taken to fulfill the Paris commitments.”
Mayors gathered for the Summit will make pronouncements committing themselves and their cities to moving forward with significant emissions reductions regardless of action taken by their respective federal governments. In addition, mayors will announce city-specific climate programs and policies and commit to working through existing organizations, including Climate Mayors, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network and ICLEI to develop partnerships with other cities. Commitments made under the Chicago Climate Charter will be clustered around central ideas and themes to better aggregate impact and provide guidance for Mayors who are looking to peers for new ideas.
“We are encouraged by these commitments to ambitious but practical climate solutions because expansion of clean energy and energy efficiency also creates jobs and drives local economies,” said Julia Stasch, President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which is supporting the summit. “As important as our mayors and other elected officials are in addressing this challenge, they can’t get the job done alone. We need an urgent, inclusive examination of the real challenges and opportunities the changing role of energy plays in the economy, to ensure that the benefits are shared by all.”
“The Joyce Foundation is proud to support this summit and is excited for leaders from across North America to come to Chicago to share in our commitment to efforts to combat climate change,” said Ellen Alberding, President of the Joyce Foundation. “Innovation at the state and local level is required to develop and implement programs in order to reduce the level of emissions that is devastating our environment. This summit will provide the opportunity for leaders to share in their best practices and create opportunities for emission reductions in the years and decades to come.”
Under Mayor Emanuel’s leadership, Chicago has enacted strong environmental protections and taken significant steps towards tackling climate change that demonstrate sustainability and economic growth go hand in hand. Recently Mayor Emanuel announced that Chicago has reduced its carbon emissions by eleven percent from 2005 to 2015, bringing the city to forty percent of the way to meeting its Paris Agreement goals. The Mayor's June 7 Executive Order established the goal of reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions to levels equivalent to or greater 26-28 percent reduction from 2005 levels to 2025, the original commitment made by the Obama Administration as part of the United States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement. The reduction in greenhouse gases over the past decade came while the number of jobs within the city increased by seven percent and is equivalent to shutting down a coal power plant for fourteen months.
“Chicagoans are already seeing the effects of climate change; in rising temperatures and more frequent violent storms that flood streets and cause the Chicago river to reverse its flow into Lake Michigan,” said Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We want to see leadership and action on climate change. The cities like those assembled at today’s summit are providing it in the face of a President dangerously shirking his duty to act.”
Mayor Emanuel has continued to drive additional carbon emission reductions through a number of new initiatives or expansion of existing programs since 2015, ranging from increasing the number of highly energy-efficient buildings, to updating all Chicago streetlights to smart LEDs. Through these and other efforts, the City as well as its residents and businesses save money, conserve resources, and reduce harmful pollution while also creating clean 21st-century, local jobs.
The Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge now comprises 80 buildings, collectively achieving an energy reduction of 15 percent. These buildings, which span more than 53 million square feet, have committed to reducing their energy use by 20 percent. Thus far, these buildings have reduced energy costs by more than $10 million a year.
In April, the Mayor announced that by 2025 all of Chicago’s public buildings will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. That transition means that eight percent of the city-wide electricity load or 1.8 billion kilowatt hours will come from clean and renewable sources. This follows the 2013 commitment that the City made to eliminating coal from its electricity supply.
The Chicago Energy Rating System will be implemented in 2019, and will make energy use information for large buildings easily accessible to residents while encouraging energy savings. The zero to four star scale rating system is based on existing and publicly available energy data, alongside recent energy improvements to buildings. Each building over 50,000 square feet will be required to post ratings in a prominent location on the property, and share this information at the time of sale or lease listing. Chicago is the first US city to assign buildings an energy performance rating and require properties to post their rating.
The ambitious Chicago Smart Lighting Program is underway will replace and modernize more than 270,000 public lights with high-quality LED fixtures by 2021 and add a state-of-the-art smart lighting grid. Once the historic modernization project is complete, the new lights will consume 50-75 percent less electricity than existing lights, generating significant electricity cost savings that will offset the cost of the modernization. The project is projected to save over 246 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, equivalent to powering nearly 20,000 homes in one year.
Earlier this year, the City of Chicago was awarded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2017 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award. The award is given annually to honor organizations that have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through energy efficiency.
On the eve of the Summit, The Field Museum hosted over a thousand civic leaders, community members, and representatives from 60 civic and environmental organizations from across the Chicago region to discuss ways to take action against climate change.
"Residents and community leaders play a crucial role in tackling climate change," said Debra Moskovits, Vice President of Strategic Science Initiatives at The Field Museum. "It's through neighborhoods, local organizations, businesses, and policy makers working together locally, that we can have a local and global impact. The Chicago Community Climate Forum made clear Chicagoans care deeply about climate issues and are ready to act."
The Summit will also feature the fifth-annual C40 Cities Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards, celebrating the most innovative and impactful efforts by mayors to tackle climate change. Recognizing the increasingly important role cities must play in driving climate action in the United States, for the first time ever the Awards will celebrate one winner from a US city and one winner from the rest of the world.
The North American Climate Summit was hosted by Mayor Emanuel, in concert with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. The Summit is supported by the Joyce Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Crown Family Philanthropies.