Evanston wins environment award, but struggles to reach emissions goal

June 18, 2011

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The City of Evanston Friday won the 2011 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards for small-city competitors at the U.S. Conference of Mayors conference in Baltimore. The conference recognized the northern suburb of Chicago for its aggressive Climate Action Plan, which was adopted by Evanston’s City Council in 2008 as a roadmap to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Evanston is one of 1,053 signatories to The U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Cities that sign on to the agreement are striving to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. For Evanston, that meant reducing its carbon emissions by 13 percent.

“It’s an affirmation that all the work that all the work our citizens and city staff have done to reduce our carbon footprint has been worth it, and we’re on track the right track,” said Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. Tisdahl spoke by phone from the conference in Baltimore on Friday after accepting the award. But, she added, “There’s a lot of work still to do.”

Tisdahl said that while the city has reduced overall energy usage by 2 percent, and has cut carbon emissions from municipal operations by 22 percent, she was “surprised and upset” to learn that gasoline consumption in Evanston has risen. According to the city’s Office of Sustainability, the amount of gasoline sold in the city has jumped 32 percent since 2005, for reasons not yet known. The office estimates greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector by tracking gasoline sales.

While Evanston’s governing apparatus has reduced its own carbon footprint, that still accounts for only a small portion of the city’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. Tisdahl says it’s unlikely that Evanston will meet its 13 percent goal within the next six months, but she still believes that it can meet that goal — eventually. “We’d need some big things like wind turbines in the lake, or some of our major plans would have to come to fruition.”

A committee will present more information about Evanston’s options with wind turbines to the City Council on Monday.