Illinois becomes 1st Midwestern state to pass a law to phase out fossil fuels
At a time when the Midwest is being battered by more severe storms due to climate change, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a landmark law this month that will transition the state to 100 percent clean energy by 2045, with benchmarks along the way.
While the effort has largely escaped national media attention, it is especially noteworthy for three reasons: Illinois is the first state in the coal-heavy Midwest to commit to eliminating carbon emissions; the plan received some Republican support; and it includes programs to ensure economic and racial equity.
“What we’ve now done is made it clear that [fossil fuels] are not in Illinois’s future,” Jack Darin, director of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, told Yahoo News.
Although the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act stood a chance of passage only because Democrats control both houses of the state Legislature and the governor’s mansion, the Republican response offers hints of a potential partisan thaw on global warming.
“We had some very, I would say, out-of-step rhetoric opposing the bill, but we no longer hear anyone doubting the science of climate change,” Darin said. “So even the most conservative objections to the bill did not question the science and the urgency of acting on climate. And, in fact, most Republican objections were couched in statements of support for renewable energy. Things that we used to hear Democrats say 15 years ago about an all-of-the-above strategy that includes fossils and renewables is kind of where the Republicans seem to be now.”
Perhaps that’s because the local effects of climate change are becoming impossible to ignore. Over the last 100 years, Illinois’s average temperatures have increased by 1 to 2 degrees Celsius, and annual rainfall has gone up by 12 to 15 percent, according to the state climatologist’s office, with the number of 2-inch rain days up by 40 percent.
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