State representatives hold town hall to discuss climate change, clean energy


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

State Reps. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) and Laura Fine (D-Glenview) discuss climate change and clean energy. About 60 constituents joined the representatives Monday at a town hall.

Catherine Henderson, Reporter

State Reps. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) and Laura Fine (D-Glenview) held a town hall Monday to discuss a spectrum of climate-related issues under the Trump administration, from clean energy to the diminishing importance of coal.

Along with four climate panelists, the two representatives met with about 60 constituents at the Evanston Ecology Center. The speakers encouraged attendees to continue engaging in climate legislation and sustainable living.

“In the past year, (environmental legislation) changed tremendously,” Fine said. “Not only are we trying to pass legislation to protect ourselves in Illinois, but we’re trying to pass legislation to protect ourselves from what’s going on at the federal level.”

Gabel and Fine read from a recent Illinois House of Representatives resolution, which urges Gov. Bruce Rauner to join the United States Climate Alliance, a group of 14 states agreeing to uphold the goals of the Paris climate deal despite President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw from it.

The panelists also stressed the importance of moving toward clean energy.

The obstacles facing clean energy are no longer technological or economic — it’s a matter of political will, said Jack Darin, director of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization.

“We are on our own if we are going to be making progress on climate issues here,” Darin said. “We have a federal administration that has literally given the keys to the Environmental Protection Agency to those who want to take it apart. They are slashing budgets and denying science.”

However, Darin said he did not want to linger on fear, as citizens don’t have a choice to “simply give up.”

J.C. Kibbey, a policy advocate at the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, said the sudden shift away from coal demonstrates the economic importance of clean energy. According to the union, the share of U.S. electricity sourced from coal fell from 51 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in 2016.

On the federal level, Kibbey said, some conservatives are moving toward climate action. He said representatives from across the aisle are signing onto the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group of U.S. representatives advocating for climate action.

Evanston resident Julia Bunn told The Daily she attended the town hall to figure out how to help the environment under the Trump administration.

“This is essential to our survival,” Bunn said. “I’m always looking for how I can actively make changes.”

Bunn added that she feels optimistic about climate action on at least the state level.

Gabel closed the meeting by saying she felt proud of her district.

“This was one of our best town halls,” Gabel said. “I think we have our marching orders. … And we’ve got some legislation to make.”

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