Chicago’s Grant Park was the opening scene of Friday’s local Youth Climate Strike, just ahead of the U.N. Climate Action Summit, where global leaders will discuss how they plan to address the climate emergency. Inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, youth around the world have held these events once a month since March.
They’re designed to disrupt business as usual and urge politicians to take the climate crisis more seriously. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has urged countries to come to the Climate Action Summit with concrete plans.
What concrete changes are Chicago’s young activists asking for? Here’s what young leaders in Chicago’s climate movement said they want to see from city and state officials.
Turn ComEd Into a Municipal Utility
“I think we need to fight for a democratized Commonwealth Edison. We see the ways in which people pay for their energy and that money goes toward corporations, but we want to see that money go back to the people, toward city resources and transforming our energy infrastructure. Their contract [with the city] is up in 2020 and we want to see the mayor make it into [a city run utility].”
— Emily Isaacson, 23, Sunrise Movement Chicago
Expand 100% Renewable Energy Pledge Statewide
“I want to congratulate Chicago for being one of the biggest cities to sign on to the Sierra Club Ready for 100 deal.Currently, Chicago is one of the only cities that has committed to reducing emissions and switching to all renewable energy by 2035. But I would ask Gov. Pritzker to take it to a statewide initiative.”
— Dave Pavletic, 17, Youth Climate Strike
Declare a Climate Emergency and Pass Clean Energy Jobs Act
“It is not just an easy switch where we can turn off fossil fuels. People are going to need jobs and … a system where people can equitably switch over to renewable energy jobs in our economy.”
— Kyrsten Jovita, 20, Sunrise Movement Chicago
Make Electric Car Lanes
“I think Chicago should think about getting electric vehicle lanes. They do that in California so why couldn’t we do it here? It would be a greatstart.”
— Aidan Lane, 16, Youth Climate Strike
Create a Carbon Tax
“We need to put a price on carbon because our economy treats the effects of carbon as a negative externality that is not factored in to the economy. The harmful effects of our economy are not paid for by the people who cause it.”
— Eric Luu, 20, Student Environmental Alliance of Loyola Chicago
Monica Eng is a reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter at @monicaeng.
An earlier version of this story misidentified the organization with which Eric Luu is affiliated. He is part of the Student Environmental Alliance of Loyola Chicago.