Reducing carbon emissions has become a priority for Chicago as it seeks to lead the way towards a sustainable future.
With a summer temperature projected to rise by up to 5°C by 2040, if present trends continue, Chicago is taking steps to prepare itself for future climate change.
Restoring and creating green space is key to the city’s adaptation strategy.
It plans to have 2,000 acres of natural land within the city limits by 2020 – in a bid to lower temperatures during hot weather and to reduce water runoff when it rains.
Since 2016, the city has rebuilt or refurbished 225 parks and planted over 26,000 new trees to make sure all neighborhoods have access to canopy cover and green space. And it’s not stopping there: it aims to plant a further million trees by 2020.
But the city is not only looking to adaptation, it is also doing its part in the fight against climate change.
Under Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Chicago has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Between 2010 and 2015, it had already lowered emissions by 7%, even as its population and economy grew.
Energy and transport are two crucial areas in the city’s environmental strategy.
Chicago closed its last two coal plants as part of its shift to cleaner forms of electricity generation, and is supporting the local electric utility to roll out a US$2.6 billion grid modernization project to integrate new sources of renewable power.
As part of a vast retrofitting project of municipal, commercial and residential buildings, the city has increased the energy efficiency of 54 million square feet of the city’s buildings. In 2015, the city reported a 30% reduction in emissions from waste, thanks to an increase in curbside recycling and an improvement in the technology used to handle landfill waste.
Two wheels are better than four
Chicago has worked its way up to first place in the rankings of America’s most bike friendly cities. It’s created around 100 miles of better bike lanes and expanded its bike share program to over 5,000 bikes. It has also created the Loop Link, a bus and bicycle project that gives people speedy, more sustainable options when travelling around the city. Transport planners are now also looking at creating Chicago’s first fleet of electric buses.
Taxi travel too has become less carbon intensive, with city initiatives encouraging a 600% increase in low-carbon taxis. As of September 2014, they represented roughly 81% of the total number of taxis on the road.
Updated September 2017.