Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today announced that she is committing her administration to the ambitious sustainability goal of reducing the County’s Greenhouse Gas emissions by 80 percent over the next several decades.
This commitment comes as a result of a just-released report by the Cook County Sustainability Advisory Council, co-chaired by Christopher Kennedy, chairman, Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises, Inc., and Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd. Created a year ago by President Preckwinkle, the Council was directed to help the County become environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
The Council began its work by focusing on the County’s building energy use, its largest source of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Cook County buildings account for 67% of total GHG emissions. The Council’s report outlined ways the County can reduce GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The County is well ahead of its target to reach this goal because it has already achieved $3 million in energy savings since March 2011. The County’s annual energy budget was $34.1 million dollars in 2010, the year chosen as a baseline for the goal.
“I thank the Council members for their hard work and expertise in helping Cook County take this large step forward,” President Preckwinkle said. “The Council’s recommendations set a framework to achieve sustainability for Cook County facilities and make our communities healthier and more livable. Taking action today provides resources for the needs of future generations. Sustainability also creates jobs and savings for taxpayers, residents and businesses.”
The Council identified 11 buildings where the County uses 90% of its energy, with the campuses of the County hospital and Department of Corrections topping the list. Initial energy-saving investments have already begun at those buildings. The Council is recommending that the County apply the same data collection, analysis and implementation strategies that were used to identify energy projects for other GHG emissions contributors.
“The County has a real opportunity to lead suburban communities by sharing best practices, fostering economic development and facilitating public/private partnerships across the County,” Pramaggiore said. “ComEd’s support of the County included participation in the Council, and analysis of the County’s energy usage. The data we were able to generate has allowed the County to target its biggest energy users with the greatest potential for savings and establish a 2010 Greenhouse Gas emissions baseline.”
The Council also recommended that the County play a major leadership role in making all of its 130 municipalities more sustainable. Suggestions include helping smaller communities unite to seek federal funding, advocating to improve the region’s transportation systems and promoting transit-oriented developments.
“Sustainability and good government both rely on the fundamental principles of transparent data and clear accountability,” Kennedy said. “For practitioners, both lead to lower costs and greater value. It’s great that President Preckwinkle has made these elements the hallmark of her legacy.”
Another recommendation was that the County expand sustainability efforts to water, fuel, waste and transportation. According to the County’s 2012 Solid Waste Plan Update, Cook County residents create more waste per capita/day than the U.S. average and recycle less. Progress has already been achieved on one area of waste diversion. Cook County is the first government in the Midwest to require reuse of demolition debris.
“Our next step is to organize a summit and forums across the County to get people focused on sustainability and start implementing the work that needs to be done,” Preckwinkle said.
President Preckwinkle is asking the Council to review the County’s progress and help implement energy-saving projects. An annual report will be issued in 2014 on advances made toward achieving the 80 percent GHG emissions reduction goal.
Copies of the Council’s executive summary and report can be found at http://blog.cookcountyil.gov/sustainability/advisory-council-report/