Chicago – Governor Rod. R. Blagojevich today announced a new global warming initiative that will build on Illinois’ role as a national leader in protecting the environment and public health. The announcement marks the beginning of a long-term strategy by the state to combat global climate change, and builds on steps the state has already taken to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as enhancing the use of wind power, biofuels and energy efficiency.
“We’ve worked hard in Illinois to become a national leader in reducing toxic pollutants like mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. The next front is greenhouse gases. The impact of global warming from greenhouse gases in Illinois and around the globe could be devastating,” said Governor Blagojevich. “We can’t wait for the federal government to act because experts have warned that if we don’t address global warming within the next decade, it may be too late to avoid serious and irreversible consequences.”
The Executive Order signed today by Gov. Blagojevich creates the Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group, which will consider the full range of policies and strategies to reduce GHG emissions in Illinois and make recommendations to the Governor. The Advisory Group will have broad representation, including, business leaders, labor unions, the energy and agricultural industries, scientists, economists, and environmental groups from throughout the state. The Governor named Doug Scott, Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, as Chair of the Advisory Group.
The Governor also announced today that Illinois will join New Mexico to become only the second state in the nation to join the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). As a CCX member, the state makes a voluntary, but legally binding, commitment to reduce GHG emissions from the electricity and fuel needed to operate state facilities and motor vehicles; the reduction target only applies to state government operations.
Scientists have reached consensus that increasing emissions of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels, methane from landfills and other sources of greenhouse gases are trapping heat and causing the earth’s atmosphere to warm. According to scientists, global warming could cause a variety of serious problems in Illinois, including more frequent droughts, flooding, and extreme heat events. Such changes could decrease agricultural production, overwhelm sewage infrastructure, and cause property damage. Increased temperatures could also lead to dangerous increases in the level of air pollution and to the introduction of invasive species that could damage native ecosystems.
“By acting now we can take important steps to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and realize the economic development benefits that strategies to confront climate change can offer,” said Director Scott. “Promoting energy efficient technology, homegrown renewable energy from wind power and biofuels as well as systems to trap and store carbon dioxide emissions will curtail our greenhouse gas emissions while triggering greater investment and job creation in Illinois.”
“Solving global warming problems is the challenge of our generation. While the federal government is stalling, Governor Blagojevich is stepping-up Illinois' efforts to promote important global warming solutions,” said Howard A. Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “The Governor's climate change initiative and recent energy independence plan can help move Illinois to the forefront of the growing global movement to develop clean energy, cleaner cars and more energy efficient buildings that will help reduce global warming pollution. That can benefit our economy, our environment and future generations.”
“Three cheers for the Governor’s acknowledgement that we can and must set a course in Illinois to address our contribution to global warming,” said Rebecca Stanfield, Director of Environment Illinois and the Illinois Global Warming Solutions Campaign. “We are now moving beyond the question of whether to take action, and are moving on to figuring out how to do it in Illinois.”
CCX is North America’s only, and the world’s first, GHG emissions registry, reduction and trading system. CCX members are required to reduce GHG emissions by six percent by 2010, compared to their average emissions between 1998 and 2001. Members that cannot meet their emissions reductions targets can buy credits from members that have exceeded their required reductions, or from farmers or others who have reduced carbon releases to the atmosphere.
The CCX is an Illinois-based company, with more than 100 members, including large industrial companies, utilities, universities, cities, and non-governmental organizations. Members based in Illinois include Baxter Healthcare International, Motorola, Square D Electronics, and the City of Chicago.
“By joining the Climate Change Exchange, the State of Illinois is taking a meaningful step to reduce global warming caused by our own facilities and vehicles, and we’re setting an example for others to follow,” said the Governor. “I believe in market-based approaches to combating climate change, and CCX is at the forefront of this movement. The lessons we learn will help in developing future policies to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
“We are proud and excited that the State of Illinois has announced its commitment to join CCX, which only underscores the leadership the state had held in finance, agriculture and industry over the years. CCX Membership will help Illinois build upon its unparalleled expertise in these three sectors to help address global climate change, manage energy use wisely and help forge a solution to important environmental challenges that can reward and strengthen all relevant economic sectors in the State,” said Dr. Richard Sandor, Chicago Climate Exchange Chairman and CEO.
“By joining the Chicago Climate Exchange, the state of Illinois is demonstrating the leadership that is needed to address climate change, a crucial issue facing corporations and society at large today,” Art Gibson, VP of Environment, Health and Safety at Baxter, said. “Membership in CCX has helped Baxter prepare for evolving global approaches toward addressing global warming.” Baxter was one of the 14 original charter members of CCX and the first healthcare company to join.
Since Governor Blagojevich took office in 2003, the State has taken numerous steps to reduce GHG emissions, including:
· reducing the overall number of state vehicles by 11%, from 13,635 in 2003 to 12,100 now;
· increasing the number of flex fuel vehicles in the state fleet from 1,339 in 2000 (10% of fleet), to 1,944 now (16% of fleet);
· increasing the use of renewable and cleaner burning ethanol and biodiesel in the state fleet, more than 1 million gallons of biofuels have been consumed by state vehicles since April 2004;
· saving $5 million last winter by turning back the thermostat in state buildings;
· powering state facilities with electricity generated by wind power and other renewable energy sources; and
· improving energy efficiency and conservation efforts at state facilities.
These efforts not only curtail GHG emissions but save taxpayer money by limiting the state’s use of electricity and petroleum-based transportation fuels.
This summer, the Governor proposed the nation’s most innovative and aggressive energy independence plan that includes additional strategies to reduce carbon emissions by boosting investments in energy efficient technologies, renewable power generation, and homegrown fuels made from Illinois coal, corn and soybeans. The initiative also includes a planned pipeline to help capture carbon dioxide emissions from new coal gasification plants.
Earlier this year, the state launched the Illinois Conservation and Climate Initiative (ICCI) in partnership with CCX. ICCI offer farmers and other landowners the opportunity to earn and sell greenhouse gas emissions credits through CCX when they take steps to trap carbon dioxide and reduce methane emissions by using conservation tillage, planting grasses and trees, or capture methane with manure digesters. These practices keep carbon in the soil and plants instead of being released as carbon dioxide. Illinois is the first state to sponsor such a program. Nearly 200 landowners, mostly farmers, have enrolled.
“From the Governor’s Energy Independence Plan to the Illinois Conservation and Climate Initiative, Illinois has an ongoing commitment to reducing the impact of global warming,” said Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott. “Joining the Climate Exchange is another proactive effort by the state to reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and ultimately affect the quality of life for our children and our grandchildren.”
As part of the Governor’s global warming initiative, Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott and Steven Frenkel, Director of Policy Development for Governor Blagojevich, will meet with top officials from California later this month to discuss GHG reduction strategies. Governor Schwarzenegger recently signed legislation that creates the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction program in the U.S. Directors Scott and Frenkel will meet with the Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, Linda Adams, Assistant Secretary for Climate Change, Eileen Tutt, Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Governor Schwarzenegger, Brian Prusnek, and Executive Director of the California Air Resources Board, Catherine Witherspoon. The Governor has asked his aides to explore potential partnerships with other states that are actively pursuing climate change strategies. These meetings will help inform the development of Illinois’ plans for combating global warming.