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City wins environmental award from mayors’ group

Evanston is one of a dozen cities nationwide honored in the climate protection awards program of the U.S. Conference of Mayors .

About 140 towns applied for the award that recognizes innovative practices designed to increase energy efficiency and curb global warming.

Evanston is one of a dozen cities nationwide honored in the climate protection awards program of the U.S. Conference of Mayors .

About 140 towns applied for the award that recognizes innovative practices designed to increase energy efficiency and curb global warming.

Chicago won the top prize for large cities and North Little Rock, Ark., was the first-place winner among smaller towns. Smaller communties towns besides Evanston also honored were Burlington, Vt.; Denton, Texas; Lake Oswego, Ore. and Lauderhill, Fla.

“This is a great honor for the residents of Evanston to receive recognition for its efforts and reaffirms our commitment as a community working collaboratively to guarantee a cleaner, greener and healthier environment for future generations,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

In 2006, the Evanston City Council adopted a strategic plan that included a commitment to sustainable practices and infrastructure as key goals. Later that year, the Council voted unanimously to sign the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, an initiative launched in 2005 that invites cities to ‘meet or beat’ the targets of the 2005 Kyoto Protocol. The goal: to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012.

Achieving this goal required a plan. While the city has a key role to play as a strategic partner, the success of the city’s efforts would depend largely on the involvement of local institutions, businesses and residents. Similar to most communities across the county, the city is facing declining revenues and budget shortfalls. Aside from a dedicated full-time staff, the City’s Sustainable Programs Coordinator, the city did not have the resources available to allocate a budget for the development of a climate action plan.

“Faced with limited resources, Evanston got creative and turned to the community to develop a viable plan for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions,” said Carolyn Collopy, Evanston’s Sustainability Coordinator. “Evanston’s experience serves as a replicable model for communities of similar size and resources, demonstrating climate change can be addressed at the local level in challenging economic times.”

The city embarked on a unique, collaborative partnership with a local grass-roots sustainability coalition, the Network for Evanston’s Future. Nine task forces were established; each with one City and two community co-chairs, and the planning process was launched at a public meeting in November 2007. Participants were invited to join one of the nine task forces and help develop the recommendations of the Evanston Climate Action Plan (ECAP).

Task force members spent months researching options and determining which measures would be the most cost-effective to pursue based on the associated emissions reductions, costs, existing resources and community priorities. Heavy emphasis was placed on identifying strategies that leveraged existing programs, initiatives and resources to ensure implementation would be possible in the absence of funding.

Added together, the proposed strategies had the potential to reduce Evanston’s emissions by nearly twice the reduction target established by the community-wide GHG emissions inventory. A draft of the ECAP was presented to the community in 2008 for public comment and was adopted by Council later that year.

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