Illinois can make an impact on climate change and drive global action

Promises made as part of the Paris Agreement have already touched down across the Prairie State in a positive way and built momentum that we cannot afford to lose.

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A boat floats on Lake Michigan near Montrose Beach while the Chicago skyline is seen.

A boat floats on Lake Michigan near Montrose Beach while the Chicago skyline is seen.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The world’s largest conference on climate, COP27, went into overtime on Nov. 18. A key outcome of COP27 will be whether any major polluting countries vow to increase their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Another key area of discussion is whether wealthier nations will pledge to financially support low- and lower-middle-income countries that face damaging losses from climate change despite their limited role in causing the problem.

Climate change is a global crisis with local impacts. Strong international cooperation and bold action are critical to maintain a stable climate here in Illinois. Promises made as part of the Paris Agreement have already touched down across the Prairie State and built momentum that we cannot afford to lose.

If no immediate action is taken, virtually all aspects of life are threatened, as shown in our Illinois climate change assessment — a report compiled by The Nature Conservancy with more than 40 scientists and technical experts.

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Many of us have already felt the brunt of more frequent rain leading to flooded basements, or heat waves that impact rural and urban communities alike. Frontline communities across the state — often low-income and communities of color facing historic disinvestment — are likely to face the most immediate and worst effects of the climate crisis.

While Illinois residents are not unique in experiencing these changes, we stand out as a national leader in climate action. In the last year, we’ve seen positive progress:

  • The state passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), setting us on track to transition to 100% clean energy by 2050.
  • The city of Chicago also revised its Climate Action Plan, which outlines comprehensive goals that set the city on a path to reduce carbon emissions by more than 60% by 2040.
  • Both CEJA and the Climate Action Plan aim to prioritize investment in low-income communities and communities of color.
  • The successful passage of the Cook County Forest Preserves referendum will support access to green space and bolster the climate resilience of the forest preserve system.

At the national level, the Inflation Reduction Act and the National Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are providing a much-needed boost to support climate action, such as incentives for renewable energy and electric vehicles and enhanced support for farmers to build resiliency against climate change. Land and water conservation is also ramping up through President Joe Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative, with funding and coordination to better equip landscapes to withstand the disruptions of extreme weather.

While leaders met during COP27 to build a roadmap to support the planet’s common goals, momentum at the local and national level is important. By demonstrating the progress we are making here at home, together we can drive change on the global stage.

Michelle Carr, Illinois director at The Nature Conservancy

Validate reason for tax increases

I was alarmed when my 2019 city real estate taxes increased 34.9% from the prior year. But the 54.34% increase in my 2021 year taxes made “alarm” seem fanciful, if not totally inadequate, to describe my shock.

Am I to believe city public schools and street-level security have recovered sufficiently to support such taxation?

William O’Neill, Near West Side

Recognize the real ‘Dreamers’

The story on Sen. Dick Durbin’s latest push for the DREAM Act stated he is “the founder of the ‘Dreamer’ movement.” As an undocumented community member myself, I’m writing to correct the record: Durbin is not the founder or the leader of any branch of the movement to win immigrant rights.

While it is true Durbin first co-led the DREAM Act in 2001 and has brought it up again this week, calling him a “founder” is harmful to those of us for whom immigration status is an ongoing struggle. As my application for DACA is stalled while the program faces legal challenges, I feel the physical and mental toll daily that we are no closer to passing the DREAM Act today than we were before the senator’s press conference.

As I speak with undocumented community members and their families across Chicago, we know the DREAM Act would be an important step forward. Because undocumented young people like myself have shared our stories, had conversations with our friends and neighbors, and made our voices heard in the streets, the DREAM Act has become an incredibly popular policy proposal. But Durbin and others have not been able to capitalize on this popularity with legislative results.

Undocumented individuals are the ones who founded the movement and continue to lead it today. Lynn Sweet and media outlets like the Sun-Times should be holding our elected officials to a higher standard and in the process must recognize the community members directly affected by immigration policy as they write and publish stories about our movement.

Angel Ortiz, Englewood

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