Tisdahl’s Climate protection award arrives in Evanston

Alexandria Johnson

After garnering national recognition earlier this year for the Evanston Climate Action Plan, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl received the Climate Protection Award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors at a presentation Thursday.

John Bisio, Walmart director of public affairs and government relations, presented Tisdahl with a $15,000 c==heck, which she said would benefit Citizens’ Greener Evanston (CGE). The local organization focuses on improving the city’s environmentally conscious practices.

The accolade was initially announced in June, when Evanston won first place honors in the 2011 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards for its sustainability strategy.

“We are excited for the recognition on a national level for implementing the Climate Action Plan in measurable ways. The city is already enjoying the recognition,” Evanston sustainable programs coordinator Catherine Hurley said. “This is a springboard for the next stage of sustainability.”

CGE President Ron Fleckman said the City of Evanston and CGE’s goals for sustainability are aligned, and they plan to disperse the funds to address five areas of the community agenda for 2011, rather than using the money for staffing.

The agenda addresses the five initiatives of conserving household energy, educating the community on sustainability practices, developing a transportation plan, creating innovative approaches to renewable energy and remaining financially sound throughout those processes.

“We are thrilled. These dollars will be made count to each (initiative) and to forward the agenda,” Fleckman said. “We want all the money to directly impact the city.”

ECAP was implemented in 2006 after the City Council voted to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement with the goal of reducing greenhouse gases to 7 percent below the 1990 levels by 2012. This requires the city to reduce emissions by 13 percent, and the plan employs over 200 strategies to work to achieve this standard.

“This is the first time the city hired a director of sustainability,” Tisdahl said. “It was a very brave move at a time when revenue is shrinking. This is evidence that this is a high priority, and we can prove it.”

State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Ill.), who was also in attendance, applauded the city’s efforts toward a greener future.

“To me, one of the key issues is the environment and ensuring the (communities) are livable and sustainable,” Gabel said.

From the U.S. Conference of Mayors, executive directors Kevin McCarty and Debra DeHaney-Howard attended as representatives for the award presentation.

“What impresses me is the comprehensive approach – that this approach to the climate plan really is working,” McCarty said. “We honor our mayors and care when they are doing great things.”

Although the award is a meaningful milestone, Tisdahl acknowledges that the city still has more work to do in the area of sustainability.

“My job is very clear,” Tisdahl said. “The recognition by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Walmart are a great indication we are on the right track. It says to the citizens, community and council that we are doing the right thing, and we know we have a ways to go. I am very proud of our commitment to the environment, but we are far from complete.”

[email protected]