Brookfield last week became one of the first municipalities in northeast Illinois to endorse the 2021 Climate Action Plan for the Chicago region, unveiled in July by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and created in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Global Covenant of Mayors, with support from the European Union, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Metropolitan Planning Council.
The Climate Action Plan resulted from an assessment of regional climate-related risks and calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050.
While the scope of the plan is regional, encompassing 280 municipalities and almost 9 million people, all of the actions called for can be scaled to the municipal level, said Edith Makra, director of environmental initiatives for the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, of which Brookfield is a member.
“The idea of structuring municipal support is simply a way to commit to the plan, support its goals and work toward them,” said Makra in a phone interview last week. “We do have a climate crisis on our hands. I think given the extremes we’ve seen this year across the country and globe, it does add urgency to taking climate action.”
According to a press release issued in July when the Climate Action Plan was unveiled, municipal governments are a critical cog in the wheel, because they “are uniquely positioned to lead, enact policies and encourage others to take action.”
According to a summary of the plan, municipalities can incorporate initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases and encourage and educate residents on what they can do.
Some suggested actions are as simple as retrofitting municipal buildings, facilities and street lights for maximum energy efficiency, something Brookfield has already begun implementing.
Other initiatives, again already in the works in Brookfield, include prioritizing transit-oriented/supportive development near train stations, planning roadways that benefit multiple modes of transportation and sustainably manage storm water runoff.
More difficult to implement initiatives could include emphasizing sustainable practices in municipal purchasing and operations, engaging with residential and commercial property owners to optimize building energy efficiency and requiring high-performance or net-zero emissions in new construction.
With a unanimous vote on Sept. 27 to endorse it, Brookfield was among the first five municipalities in the region to officially support the Climate Action Plan, said Makra, though the plan is receiving much favorable response since the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus began formally encouraging municipalities to adopt the plan in mid-September.
“Although we’re in the very beginning stages, we’re pleased with the breadth of the progress we’re seeing,” Makra said.
Several Brookfield trustees on Sept. 27 voiced strong support for endorsing the plan, urging the village to take action though board policies.
“I think it will help us prioritize future projects, prioritize plans that the [Brookfield] Conservation Commission is making, but also ways we prioritize future purchases with staff and the board and our strategic plan,” said Trustee Katie Kaluzny, who is associate director of the Illinois Green Alliance and former member of the Conservation Commission.
Trustee Brian Conroy said he wanted to see the plan put into action at the local level.
“I don’t just want to pay lip service to this,” said Conroy, pointing to initiatives such as adding solar panels to the roof of the village hall, conducting an energy audit and considering purchasing electric vehicles.
“We need to lead by example and show we’re willing to walk the walk,” he added. “It seems like a third of our country is either on fire or under water and we have a responsibility to do what we can to mitigate those measures and take actionable initiatives.”
Trustee Jennifer Hendricks, a registered landscape designer and former member of the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission, urged village staff to embrace the Climate Action Plan.
“I would hate to see this sit on a shelf,” said Hendricks. “It would be really great to see a champion on staff of this particular plan, just to make sure it’s cohesive and brought into every part of the village business.”
In a follow-up phone interview, Village Manager Timothy Wiberg told the Landmark he expects the new community development director, Emily Egan, to spearhead the village’s implementation of the plan.