Congress, Please Fight for My Future!

Climate protest: "There is no Planet B"
There is no Planet B. [Image: Li-An Lim/Unsplash]

By Leah Hartung

From floods to air pollution to wildfire smoke to severe droughts, climate change has reached Illinois. Right now is our only opportunity to prevent the worst effects of the climate disaster, and I’m calling on Congress to prioritize climate action.

Illinois’s climate is changing: This summer brought the worst drought in over 30 years and record-breaking heat, and storms are eroding Chicago’s lakeshore and filling our basements with sewage. Yet we are also in a moment of opportunity. Congress’s infrastructure package has the capacity to make the 2020s an era of transformation and secure a just and sustainable future for all of us—but only if Congress goes bigger to match the scale of the crises we face.

Modernizing and greening transportation is key in achieving climate justice. In 2019, transportation accounted for 29% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. We need to invest $600 billion in expanding and fully electrifying public transit, which would reduce harmful emissions that disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities while increasing the reliability and frequency of service. 

Investments in improving schools and housing create good jobs, protect communities’ health, and fight climate change. A $600 billion investment in energy efficiency, weatherization, electrification, decarbonization, and other building upgrades is a critical step in America’s fight against climate change and racial injustice. The students in Illinois’s most dilapidated public schools and the residents of our crumbling public housing are overwhelmingly low-income people of color. 

Not only is burning fossil fuels the main driver of catastrophic climate change, air pollution from fossil fuels also is directly responsible for more than 300,000 deaths in the United States each year. A disproportionate number of these deaths occur in low-income and communities of color. To achieve President Biden’s climate goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, we need at least $1.1 trillion in public investments in renewables. Furthermore, clean energy is popular: 89% of Illinoisans support funding research into renewable energy.

Yet we do not have to choose between jobs and the environment: Each investment is estimated to create around an additional 1.2 million to 1.3 million good-paying jobs every year.

As a college student in the middle of a pandemic, graduating soon into a global recession while the news is filled with disastrous climate change-related events, I feel anxious about the future. Still, I remain hopeful that this could be a turning point in human history. Our fight today to go bigger on the infrastructure package will influence the climate trajectory of our country. This is our time to address climate change and build thriving communities. Congress, go bigger and fight for my future!

Leah Hartung is a rising senior at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia), where she is double-majoring in environmental science and economics. She is a fellow for Clean Power Lake County as well as a member of our steering committee and our representative for the Illinois Green New Deal Coalition. 

CPLC Supports Equitable and Just National Climate Platform

Climate Forum participants sign historic Equitable and Just National Climate Platform.
Michele Roberts of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform signs the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform. [Ralph Alswang/Center for American Progress photo]
Clean Power Lake County has joined more than 70 other environmental justice and national environmental groups as an inaugural signatory of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform to address the widening climate crisis—before it’s too late.

This historic platform highlights a shared vision for national climate action that confronts racial, economic, and environmental injustice while enacting deep cuts in climate pollution and accelerating a pollution-free energy future that benefits all communities.

Clean Power Lake County and other signatories believe communities that bear the greatest burdens from pollution, climate change, and economic inequality should co-lead the way in shaping the assertive solutions we need to tackle the climate crisis and environmental racism as well as to achieve a just climate future.

The platform released on July 18 lays out how we can—and will—get there together.

Action priorities:

  • Enact solutions that address the legacy of pollution
  • Make justice and equity a priority
  • Reduce greenhouse gas pollution
  • Transition to a clean energy future
  • Reduce transportation pollution
  • Rebuild infrastructure and housing
  • Demand a just national climate agenda
  • Be on a pathway to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius

Our shared vision: “All people and all communities have the right to breathe clean air, live free of dangerous levels of toxic pollution, have access to healthy food, and share the benefits of a prosperous and vibrant clean economy.”

Learn more about the National Climate Platform and the inaugural signatories at AJustClimate.org.

CPLC Helps Raise $5,200+ for Puerto Rico Hurricane Victims

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Clean Power Lake County joined forces with other environmental, faith and civic organizations in Waukegan and surrounding Lake County communities on December 7, 2017, to raise $5,236 to help Puerto Rico hurricane victims and highlight the critical need to act on the climate crisis.

The climate action event, held at the Puerto Rican Society in Waukegan, was hosted by Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor, Sierra Club, the Puerto Rican Society and Clean Power Lake County.

At the time of the benefit, more than 10 weeks after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, the majority of the island still lacked reliable electrical power and safe drinking water.

The ongoing needs of Puerto Rico residents, especially in light of inadequate response by President Trump’s administration, motivated people attending the benefit to act.

“I am determined to make a difference for Puerto Rico. Like a small grain of sand, from a small organization in Waukegan, I will make a difference,” said Lucy Rios of the Puerto Rican Society.

Among those making donations to help hurricane victims were members of the Waukegan High School JROTC. They presented $1,000 to Rios.

Community members also donated supplies such as bottled water, diapers, flashlights, and batteries.

“Hurricane Maria may have fallen out of the headlines, but our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico still need us to step up for them,” Lawlor said. “Frequent, severe storms like Hurricane Maria are unmistakable warnings of the escalating impacts of climate change. Washington’s failure to act leaves our economic future more uncertain and the destruction of our environment more rapid.”

In Lake County, 17 public officials have joined Lawlor in signing the bipartisan Lake County Climate Action Pledge.

Faith in Place, which works with houses of worship throughout Illinois to protect our land, air and water, is the first community organization to sign the pledge.

Other organizations participating in the event included Citizens Utility Board, Livable Lake County, Mano A Mano, Moms Clean Air Force, Sierra Club Woods and Wetlands Group, Waukegan Township, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.

The Lake County News-Sun published a nice recap of the December 6 benefit.