Still got your climate action plan button from last year — the one calling for reducing Evanston’s carbon footprint 13 percent by 2012?

Well, you may need to update it, and not in a good way. Evanston aldermen were told Monday by the city’s sustainability program coordinator that we’re now pouring even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than when the plan was adopted.

Carolyn Collopy, just back from a three-month maternity leave, said 2008 emission levels for all commercial and residential uses in Evanston were 16 percent above the target goal — a 3 percentage point increase from the 2005 levels known about when the plan was adopted last November.

The city itself has managed to trim its emissions, Collopy says, to just under its 2012 goal. But city government only accounts for about 2 percent of the total emissions in town.

The overall increase may be largely a result of population growth between 2005 and 2008, Collopy said.

She said federal stimulus funds will help provide some emission reductions in the near future — including installation of solar panels on the roof of the city’s water plant — and that they will also help fund weatherization grants for the homes of some low and moderate income residents.

She said the city should encourage businesses to participate in Commonwealth Edision’s energy efficiency programs, and encourage collaborative efforts among the city’s largest employers — including the university and school districts, the hospitals and Rotary International — to reduce their emissions.

Looking at longer term goals, she said the city needs to decide quickly whether to pursue the possibility of a wind farm off the Evanston shoreline, because it could take 10 to 15 years for such a project to become a reality.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said her understanding was that the wind turbines would be off the Northwestern campus and far enough out in the lake so they wouldn’t be very visible.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said, “I don’t see a problem with wind turbins in the lake. They’ve put them all over farm fields already, and they probably wouldn’t be very visible out on the lake.”

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she wondered whether those opposed to enhancing economic opportunities on the lakefront would also oppose wind turbines. “I’m curious about the politics of that,” she added.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she was concerned that wind turbines might pose a threat to migrating birds, and Collopy said there would need to be more study of that issue.

“It’s a big conversation and a lot of viewpoints have to be considered,” Collopy said, adding that the aldermen need to decide soon whether to take the idea seriously and really explore it.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Evanston Offshore Wind Farm
    I’m in favor of moving ahead with the Evanston Offshore Wind Farm. Not only will wind farm reduce our carbon footprint, it will also bring jobs to the area and offer a great opportunity to work together with Northwestern.

    Offshore wind farms are already being evaluated and planned elsewhere in the Great Lakes: Toronto, Cleveland, various Michigan sites. I’d like to see Evanston on that list as well.

    Carolyn Collopy is right–it’s a long term project so we should start as soon as possible. The concerns raised by the aldermen are valid and would be addressed by a thorough feasibility study, which I’d like to see the City of Evanston and Northwestern University work together to make happen.

    At the same time, there’s a lot we can do immediately to improve our emissions footprint, so let’s not forget about the “low hanging carbon” in efficiency improvements.

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