Environmental activists will ask the Evanston City Council tonight to adopt new and more challenging goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.

Evanstonians failed to meet the city-established 2012 goal of reducing emissions by 13 percent from 2005 levels. A half year after the deadline, in July 2013, we were still nearly a half a percentage point short of the target.

And more than 60 percent of the reduction that was achieved came from an action that didn’t require changes in behavior by local residents.

That was the City Council’s decision to use 100 percent renewable energy in its electric power aggregation agreement.

The next biggest reduction — accounting for 36 percent of the savings — came from cuts in electrical usage by commercial customers.

Several factors that were within the control of individual Evanstonians — including residential usage of natural gas, and gasoline and diesel fuel consumption — actually increased during the period from 2005 to 2012.

That makes the goal the environmentalists are proposing — a 20 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2016 — seem like a stretch, because it requires average annual cuts of roughly the same size achieved in the previous plan — with no obvious path to achieving them — except by changing individual behaviors.

So the environmental groups are proposing, in a new Evanston Livability Plan, the following steps:

  • Signing up 500 additional residential customers a year for the electrical aggregation program.
  • Developing a green-power program for mid-size businesses too large to qualify for the existing aggregation program.
  • Doing building retrofits for energy efficiency on 280 single-family homes a year plus a large number of multi-unit and commercial buildings.
  • Encouraging reduction in transit-related emissions by programs to promote walking, biking and mass-transit use — with a goal of reducing the average distance traveled by car by 1,428 miles per household per year.
  • Encouraging the city’s seven largest employers to substantially reduce their energy consumption.

The full proposal is available online starting at page 51 of tonight’s City Council packet.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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