Gov. Pritzker Sets the Stage for Illinois to Lead on Climate

Gov. Pritzker has announced clean energy and climate will be top priorities in Illinois this spring. Here's why now is the right time and what that means for the Clean Energy Jobs Act.
Map of states with renewable energy and carbon commitments
U.S. states with renewable energy and carbon-free standards
Credit: Photo: NRDC

In Gov. Pritzker's State of the State address today, he set the stage to make Illinois a national leader in the fight against climate change.

“Our spring agenda,” he said, must include “adopting new clean energy legislation that reduces carbon pollution, promotes renewable energy, and accelerates electrification of our transportation sector.”

After just one year in office, Gov. Pritzker has already demonstrated that he can lead the process to pass bold, forward-thinking legislation—more so than any governor in recent memory.

As he set his sights on clean energy legislation that puts “consumers and climate first,” he has an opportunity to fulfill his commitment and move Illinois to 100% renewable energy.

The goal of 100% renewable energy—which sounded like a pipe dream just a few years ago—is increasingly a reality across the country. Clean energy prices have plummeted in the last decade. Six states—California, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, New York, and Washington, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico—have made binding commitments to 100% renewable or carbon-free power by 2050. All but one of those commitments have come just in the last 18 months.

Six other states set non-binding 100% targets, including our neighbors in Wisconsin. Many more states have committed to substantial progress towards 100% carbon-free power.

This work starts starts with leadership from governors, like what we heard from Gov. Pritzker today. Govs. Lujan Grisham (NM), Cuomo (NY), Inslee (WA), and former Gov. Brown (CA), all made prominent calls for climate action in their recent State of the State addresses. Mere months later, they all signed legislation moving their states to 100% renewable or carbon-free energy.

Illinois should not only join this group of states moving to 100% clean energy—we should lead it, by centering equity and supporting communities burdened by pollution and coal plant closures. And this leadership is needed more than ever.

President Trump scrapped hard-fought climate progress by another Illinois leader, former President Barack Obama, when he gutted the Clean Power Plan last year.

In “transparent attempt to handicap ... the transition to a clean energy future,” Trump appointees on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order that would force Illinois customers to pay up to $864 million dollars more a year to gas and coal power plants while undercutting efforts to protect clean air and fight climate change.

Meanwhile, every corner of Illinois is experiencing the devastating effects of the climate crisis.The record flood that hit Illinois and neighboring states last year killed three people and did more than $6.2 billion in damage. A climate-fueled drought and heat wave in 2012 cost Illinois farmers more than $3.5 billion. The rising waters of Lake Michigan are eroding Chicago’s cherished lakeshore and destroying people’s homes.

If we do not act, the Trump Administration and its appointees will dictate ever-more of our energy and climate policy; meanwhile, Illinoisans will suffer as our rivers rise, our crops wither, and our people swelter in ever-hotter summers.

But as Gov. Pritzker showed us today—there is another way forward.

We can opt out of the costly fossil fuel bailout that Trump’s appointees are trying to force on us. We can act on climate change while adding to the 123,000 clean energy jobs already in our state.

People in Illinois are ready for climate action: 85% of us believe dealing with climate change should be a priority—including 92% of African-Americans and 88% of Latinos. 76% of us want to set strict limits on pollution from coal power plants.

Nearly 7 of 10 Illinoisans support the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). This historic bill would achieve the key goals Gov. Pritzker set forth today while moving the state to 100% clean energy by 2050, and supporting communities hurt by coal plant retirements and burdened by pollution,

Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and turn Gov. Pritzker’s words into action. We look forward to working with the Governor and other principled stakeholders on clean energy legislation tailored to the needs of people—not big companies—and passing it into law this spring.

CEJA puts people first. It was developed based on input from more than 70 community meetings across Illinois: from Chicago to Carbondale, from Waukegan to East St. Louis; more than 23,000 Illinoisans have signed on in support of the bill.

With Gov. Pritzker’s leadership and the support of thousands of Illinoisans, we can pass bold, equitable legislation that moves our state to 100% clean energy and positions us as a national leader on climate change.