Owen Stidman/The Daily Northwestern
The Evanston Environment Board announced its primary goal for 2020 at its Thursday meeting: helping to implement the Climate Action and Resilience Plan.
Members emphasized the difficulty that comes with carrying out CARP — the citywide plan calls for carbon neutrality and zero waste by 2050, including generating substantial action.
“We’re trying to get a process developed that is clearly focused on getting some movement, some actions and some collaboration to take place,” said board member Jerri Garl. “Right now, the approach, especially at the city level, is a little bit opaque to us.”
A working group appointed by Mayor Steve Hagerty developed CARP, which City Council approved in 2018. The plan identifies over 140 actions — from waste diversion to greenhouse gas reduction to urban canopy restoration — to reduce the effects of climate change in Evanston. Since the plan’s approval, the board, city officials and advocacy groups have begun to implement CARP priorities.
Garl outlined three ways the board hopes to facilitate CARP. First, the board wants to hire a consultant to compose a “game plan” for determining environmental priorities and budget allocations.
The board also hopes the city will employ more staff members to aid Kumar Jensen, Evanston’s chief sustainability and resilience officer, which would enable officials to pursue implementation internally.
Finally, the board hopes to develop a cohesive execution strategy among the board, nonprofit groups and city committees.
Garl and Wendy Pollock, the board’s co-chair, sent a letter to Hagerty requesting CARP implementation “be given a high priority” in City Council. Last summer, the Office of Sustainability provided $8,000 toward a CARP Mini-Grant Program. The grant supported CARP pilot projects that aligned with zero waste or environmental justice principles.
In his response, Hagerty said he recognizes the importance of CARP and encouraged the Board to continue pursuing implementation by working with elected officials, Pollock said.
Board Co-Chair Cherie LeBlanc-Fisher said current policies and programs furthering CARP strategies are “opportunistic.” While they tackle manageable environmental issues, they overlook long-term strategies that will create the most impact.
“There’s no big picture, strategic thinking in any area of CARP that, I’m aware of, about working backwards from the end goal,” Fisher said. “We were hoping in our subcommittees to be able to provide some of that expertise and guidance.”
Board member Christopher Kucharczyk said the city and advocacy groups should release information measuring progress toward carbon neutrality and waste reduction.
“How are we enabling measurements to ensure compliance and accountability?” Kucharczyk asked. “City staff seem to be focused on ‘What are the immediate next steps.’ But what are we actually doing to try to encourage waste reduction at the residential level and at the commercial level?”
Board members and Evanston residents will continue to discuss tools for carrying our CARP at a February meeting.
At Thursday’s meeting, members also discussed fine-tuning language in the environmental justice resolution. The resolution, which promotes equitable distribution of environmental assets across the city, intends to better serve low-income residents and people of color in Evanston. The board and the Equity and Empowerment Commision, which focuses on reducing inequality in Evanston, will provide feedback on the resolution before the groups submit it for consideration to the Planning and Development Committee.
Jensen also presented methods for educating residents about a balloon release policy, which prohibits individuals and businesses from intentionally releasing balloons within Evanston city limits. These methods include developing a brochure and providing information on the city’s website.
The next board meeting will take place Feb. 20 at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center at 6:30 p.m.
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