SPRINGFIELD — Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an order Tuesday to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan group of governors who have committed to abiding by the terms of an international climate treaty known as the Paris Agreement, despite the fact that President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from that pact.
Speaking at a news conference in Springfield’s eco-friendly Southwind Park, Pritzker joined officials from the Illinois Environmental Council and the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, emphasizing the need to take local action to address climate change while also taking a few verbal jabs at the president.
“While the president is intent on taking us backward, I will work hard every day to move this state forward,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker’s action made Illinois the 18th state to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group that was formed in 2017 immediately after President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. That agreement calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
During the news conference, Pritzker focused almost exclusively on the issue of electric generation in the state, saying Illinois is already on a path to producing 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and he suggested the state could achieve 100 percent renewable production by about 2050.
However, he offered no details about specific state laws, regulations or policies that would need to change for Illinois to comply with terms of the Paris Agreement. In particular, he did not respond directly to questions about how long existing coal-fired power plants should be allowed to continue operating in the state, or how such a change would affect the state’s coal industry, which provides some of the fuel to those plants.
“I think it will be part of a broader effort across the state of Illinois to reduce emissions from those energy-producing plants that, certainly by 2050 as we move to a 100 percent clean-energy economy, will have to evolve,” Pritzker said.
In his remarks, Pritzker also focused his attention almost exclusively on power plants and electricity consumption while saying nothing about other major sources of carbon emissions such as vehicle emissions or agriculture and livestock production.
He did, however, suggest that energy efficiency needs to be “part of the discussion” as his new administration works with lawmakers on a much-anticipated capital improvements package.
He also indicated that his action to join the U.S. Climate Alliance would be just one part of his new administration’s focus on environmental protection, something that was a key element of his 2018 campaign.
“This is about protecting the beauty of our state’s natural resources,” he said. “We’re home to forests and farms, to rivers and lakes, to prairies and wetlands that should be preserved and protected for generations to come. This is also about ensuring that the people of Illinois have clean air and clean water. Every Illinoisan deserves a healthy environment to live and raise a family in.”