Environmental activists had no trouble getting City Council backing Monday night for their new Evanston Livability Plan.
While youth advocates ran into trouble at the same meeting pitching a plan that sought city money up front with no clear short- or mid-range goals, the climate groups could point to:
- A generally successful track record over the past few years,
- Specific, ambitious goals to accomplish by 2016, and
- Volunteer groups committed to organizing the efforts at minimal city expense.
At a news conference to promote the plan Monday afternoon, Eleanor Revelle, the president of Citizens’ Greener Evanston, conceded that the new plan may be more challenging to achieve.
The first plan, adopted in 2009, called for a 13 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2012.
The goal was finally achieved in mid-2013 — but only because of a City Council vote to buy 100 percent renewable energy for its electric aggregation plan — which achieved more than 60 percent of the goal all by itself.
“There’s no ‘silver bullet’ this time,” Revelle said. More changes in individual behavior will be needed. But, she added, “we have so many groups working together to reach their members” that she’s confident the new reduction — of 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2016 — can be accomplished.
Catherine Hurley, the city’s sustainable programs coordinator, added that the new “livability” focus of the campaign should help — by placing more emphasis on how changes can make people’s lives healthier and even save them money — rather than putting as much focus as in the past on the science details.
One key goal of the new plan is to do energy efficiency retrofits on 250 homes a year. CGE has partnered with Elevate Energy, a non-profit formerly known as CNT Energy, to help accomplish that.
Elevate’s Chief Operating officer, Delmar Gillus, says homeowners typicallly save about $400 a year on their utility bills after the retrofit projects are completed. The group has worked on 70 homes in Evanston so far.
Jack Darin, an Evanston resident and the director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, said about 60 cities across the state have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors climate protection agreement that formed the basis of Evanston initial climate plan.
“But I haven’t seen in very many places the level of effort and commitment seen here in Evanston with really broad community-based support,” Darin said.
And Gillus called Evanston “relatively unique” in the level of community engagement with climate issues.
At the City Council meeting, Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said he strongly supports the energy retrofit plan. “It really benefits the bottom line for homeowners,” Tendam said.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, suggested encouraging the CTA to provide more reliable bus service to the high school and establish a bus stop in the parking area behind the school to reduce the number of students who drive and parents who drive their students to the school.
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, praised the economic impact of the plan on families, but encouraged more outreach to the black and Hispanic communities.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, praised the activists “for the commitment that makes this such a success.”
“It makes me really feel good about living in this town,” Rainey added.
The aldermen approved the new plan unanimously.