Now that the United States has abdicated its worldwide leadership on climate change, could that action shift now to the headquarters of Rotary International in downtown Evanston?

With more than 35,000 clubs operating in more countries than are members of the United Nations, dedicated to the new theme, beginning July 1, of “Making a Difference,” there is every reason to expect Rotary to pick up the mantle that was so dramatically discarded yesterday by President Donald Trump in pulling out of the Paris Accord on climate change.

Rotary has demonstrated its competence in tackling big challenges by its efforts, now nearly complete, in wiping out the scourge of polio on the planet, and a shift to climate change, which affects virtually every country in the world, is a new challenge that is made to order for its 1.2 million members.

And with help from leaders like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who is a speaker at Rotary’s annual convention this month in Atlanta, there is every reason to believe that the Evanston-based organization could pull it off.

Each club has an international service committee whose mission is to “do good in the world,” and the ability to make a difference is perfectly suited to that mission.

The incoming president of Rotary, Ian H. S. Risely of Victoria, Australia, used climate change as an example for a club service project when he addressed Rotary’s district leaders in February.

“Environmental degradation and climate change,” he said, “threaten us all. It is having a disproportionate impact on those who are most vulnerable—those to whom Rotary has the greatest responsibility.”

He urged each club to plant at least one tree per member, between the beginning of the next Rotary year on July 1 and Earth Day on April 22, 2018.

But that was when the United States was still leading the global effort. Now that our country has discarded that responsibility, it will be interesting to see what the leaders of Rotary have to say at their upcoming convention, June 10-14 in Atlanta.

Risely, who, like his predecessors, lives in a Rotary-owned condominium in Evanston during his two years as president-elect and president, is likely to address the topic in Atlanta.

And we’ll get a chance to hear him locally when he returns to Evanston, as he is slated to address the Rotary Club of Evanston Lighthouse on July 18, during the first month of his presidential year.

In the meantime, a spokesperson for Rotary International said Friday that, with the. Atlanta convention just days away, neither the staff nor elected officials were available to comment .

Charles Bartling is a member and a past president of the Rotary Club of Evanston Lighthouse.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Evanston is already a climate leader!

    Evanston is already among the leaders in the fight against climate change!

    Former mayor Tisdahl committed in early 2016 to participation in the Global Compact of Mayors, an international coalition of city leaders dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and later joined with more than 60 other US mayors in an open letter to the incoming president asking that he embrace the Paris Climate Agreement.

    And just this morning, Mayor Haggerty publically indicated his desire to join the US Coalition of Cities committed to the global Paris Climate Accord.

    It hasn’t been just talk—we’ve already accomplished a lot.  Motivated in part by a previous presidential administration’s failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the Evanston Climate Action Plan was passed by unanimous vote of the City Council in 2008 and a revised version, the Evanston Livability Plan, was passed in 2014.

    Through a coordinated effort involving both community and City resources, we’ve reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by almost 20% from a 2005 baseline.  (For reference, the US target under the Paris Accord was a minimum of 26% reduction.)

    We’ve achieved that reduction in large part through the adoption of Community Choice Electricity Aggregation with 100% renewable energy, an effort that has reduced our carbon footprint by more than 100,000 metric tons per year while saving us money over time.  With almost five years under our belt, that’s the carbon equivalent a 200 foot layer of coal covering an entire football field, end zones included.

    The contract is up for renewal and is scheduled for a vote at the June 12 City Council meeting.  I’d encourage everyone to express their support for continuing this important program by signing this petition:

    Once we have another few years of renewable energy in place it will be time to think even bigger.  What more can we do to reduce our carbon footprint?  What more can we do to make Evanston more sustainable, not only environmentally but economically and socially?  What more can we do to maintain Evanston’s status as one of the nation’s environmental leaders?

    Citizens’ Greener Evanston looks forward to an engaging community discussion as we work together to confront these challenges,  and we applaud Rotary for their commitment as well!

    -Jonathan Nieuwsma

    President, Citizens’ Greener Evanston

  2. Unfair conditions of accord
    The Paris Accord was very unfair to the USA. Our economic competitors (China, India, etc) did not have to reduce emissions for 13+ years or stop building power plants. However, the USA needed to start now. This Paris Accord would have moved more manufacturing and related jobs overseas. The USA just needs an equivalent agreement to whatever agreement its economic competitors get.

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