If the June 13 supercell storm that uprooted trees, downed power lines, damaged cars and ripped the roofs off of buildings is any indication of the hazards that await communities on a warming planet, a gathering of elected officials held June 23 was an indication of what local leaders plan to do about it.
Mayors from at least 10 west suburbs, including Riverside President Joseph Ballerine, met inside a conference room at Triton College in River Grove and took turns signing a memorandum of understanding that signals their commitment to joining the Cross-Community Climate Collaborative (C4).
The memo includes a pledge for a 100-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The memorandum the mayors signed and which most of their village boards have approved, isn’t legally binding and there’s no cost for any suburb to join. Participating suburbs include Broadview, Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park, Riverside, Maywood, Berwyn, Bellwood, Westchester and River Grove. Other suburbs, including Brookfield, may join in the weeks and months to come.
Riverside’s village board voted 5-0 on June 16 to join C4. The village board’s representatives to the C4 working group – also called the cross-community core team – will be trustees Aberdeen Marsh-Ozga and Cristin Evans.
That core team work with the consulting firms Urban Efficiency Group and Seven Generations Ahead, which will develop an awareness campaign, provide guidance during the formation of the working group, assist in developing grant and other funding sources for initiatives.
“This is a great opportunity to work with our neighboring communities,” Marsh-Ozga said at the June 16 meeting of the Riverside Village Board. “We found out just from recent events [after the supercell storm], when we work together, it’s always possible to achieve more, and this kind of sharing of information and providing access to information can only help us move toward those goals in a more effective manner.”
The C4 initiative is spearheaded by Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson, Oak Park Village President Vicki Scaman and River Forest Village President Cathy Adduci. Politicians from other levels of government also attended the signing ceremony, including Senate President Don Harmon (D-39th), Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-4th) and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (D-1st).
“There is no downside to signing this agreement,” Adduci said on June 23. “Climate and environmental issues, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, affect us equally. Today is about working together to find solutions.”
Scaman, who grew up in River Grove, said the C4 coalition wanted to have the signing ceremony at Triton for a reason.
“This is an institution that we all share for learning for our young people and we are here to make sure that there future is as bright as we all want it to be,” she said. “And we’re going to need them to help us on that journey.”
According to the C4 memorandum, the initiative is designed to “bring together BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] and non-minority communities across income lines to share ideas, secure resources, and drive large-scale projects within and across communities that achieve agreed upon greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, equity, and sustainability goals.”
Communities signing on to the memorandum commit to a range of initiatives. In addition to publicly endorsing the C4, they also agree to C4’s goal of a 45-percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2030 from 2010 levels and 100-percent reduction by 2050.
In addition, village officials in participating suburbs agree to participate in monthly “cross-community” team meetings, establish a sustainability working group or commission, and raise awareness about the C4 initiative, among other responsibilities.
Thompson said although suburbs aren’t committing any financial resources to C4, funding to pay for constant services and other costs could come from a variety of other places.
She said the West Central Municipal Conference (WCMC), a government council that represents the 40 municipalities that comprise Chicago’s inner ring suburbs, is a possible source for either direct funding or a leverage for accessing other funding sources. Participating governments pay a membership fee to be in the conference.
The WCMC is one of 10 Chicago area government councils that have adopted the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus’ Greenest Region Compact, which aims “for enhanced quality of life for residents; protection and stewardship of the environment and sustainable economic vitality,” according to the Caucus’ website.
Urban Efficiency Group has worked in Broadview and Bellwood for several years. Most recently, the firm, which is minority-owned, helped Thompson create the Broadview Alliance for Sustainability, which focuses on a range of ways that the village can bolster its renewable energy infrastructure.
For instance, Broadview officials are planning to install electrical vehicle charging ports in its municipal parking lots along the village’s Roosevelt Road corridor.
During the June 23 signing ceremony at Triton, Darnell Johnson, the president of Urban Efficiency Group, said while there are many different climate initiatives, C4’s emphasis on equity is what sets it apart from the others.
“One of the things that’s very unique about this particular opportunity is the fact that it is truly built around making sure that equity is centered in all of the work that we do,” he said. “To make sure we are finding the gaps and the spaces that exist between more resourced communities and those that are less resourced.”
The C4 signing ceremony comes a few months after the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body comprising global experts on human-induced global warming, released its latest report.
“The [IPCC report] tells us that by the year 2030, we have to reduce global emissions by 45 percent from 2010 levels,” Gary Cuneen, the executive director of Seven Generations Ahead, said on June 23.
“If we don’t do that, then we run the risk of having global temperatures that increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times,” he added. “Now, if that happens, they tell us we are going to have a catastrophe on a level that is just going to be unprecedented.”
Cuneen said that the June 13 supercell storm that struck the Chicago area is just one extreme weather event within a week full of them — from monsoons in India and Bangladesh, to 100-degree temperatures around the country to “massive, massive wildfires” in Spain.
“Who knows what is going to happen next week or today,” Cuneen said. “All we know is that it’s just going to continue to happen unless we address this issue.”
Bob Uphues contributed to this report.