Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced today a partnership with leaders from Dane County, Wisconsin to join “We Are Still In,” a coalition of governmental and institutional leaders dedicated to keeping America’s promise of mitigating climate change by meeting the Paris Climate Agreement.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Preckwinkle made this joint announcement to highlight their climate change reduction efforts after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement earlier this month.
Under the Paris Climate Accord, the United States agreed to reduce its 2005 carbon emission levels between 26 and 28 percent by 2025. Dane County and Cook County are the latest local governments to join “We Are Still In,” an alliance representing more than 120 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy, and recommit to the carbon reduction goal following the United States government’s exit.
“I am grateful for Executive Parisi’s leadership in the fight against climate change,” Preckwinkle said. “The reduction of carbon emissions is crucial to save our planet and local leadership is key in this effort.”
Cook County’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions are a policy and operational priority, and carbon emissions from Cook County buildings have decreased by 22 percent since 2010, an achievement that surpasses the target of a 10 percent reduction from 2010. In addition, the County’s Dunne Administration Building was recently awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold designation from the U.S Green Building Council.
In April, Preckwinkle announced that Cook County selected 15 pilot sites to study and establish community shared solar power systems in the County. The goal is to expand access to solar power to renters and those who cannot afford an up-front investment in solar, and generate financial benefits for all Cook County residents.
“I have committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 as a meaningful way to fight climate change,” Preckwinkle said. “To that end, Cook County has already invested in projects to reduce energy use in three-quarters of the County’s buildings and I am proud to say we are ahead of target.”
To aid in achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals, Dane County Executive Parisi created the Office of Energy and Climate Change and "Dane County Climate Change Council” in his 2017 budget. The council, slated to begin in July, will team up with the director of Dane County’s Office of Energy and Climate Change to prepare locally for the effects of the changing climate, identify better ways to reduce carbon emissions, and promote further development of solar and clean, green energy production.
Dane County is familiar with the benefits of solar technology. Due to the various renewable energy systems set to go online this year, Dane County will become 100 percent renewable, meaning the county will generate as much renewable energy as it uses. The new solar projects are projected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 777 tons, reducing direct energy costs by over $2.1 million over the next two decades.
Dane County Executive Parisi will send correspondence this week to the Wisconsin Counties Association requesting members join “We Are Still In” and agree to meet goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement. The letter asks all 72 Wisconsin counties to step up in addressing climate change where the federal government will not.