Illinois Passes Nation-Leading, Equitable Climate Bill

After years of work, the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (SB2408) has become law in the state of Illinois. It is a nation-leading law to fight climate change, create good-paying jobs, improve the health of Illinoisans, and support disadvantaged communities.

The bill received bipartisan super-majorities in both the House (83-33) and Senate (37-17), and Governor Pritzker signed the bill less than 48 hours later.

Photo: J.C. Kibbey

What's in the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act?

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act will:

  • Slash climate-changing carbon pollution by phasing out fossil fuels in the power sector. Require Illinois to achieve a 100% zero-emissions power sector by 2045, with significant emissions reductions before then. Prioritize environmental justice communities for the fastest pollution reductions. These emission reductions requirements extend to the Prairie State coal plant, the state’s largest polluter and the seventh-largest emitter of carbon pollution in the country, which must reduce its emissions by 45% no later than 2038 and to zero by 2045. Illinois will be the first Midwest state to require a carbon-free power sector, joining California, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, and Washington.
  • Grow renewable energy generation more than five-fold. Invest $580 million a year (more than double current funding) to generate 40% of Illinois' energy from wind and solar by 2030 and 50% by 2040 (compared to less than 10% today, and a target of 25% under current law).
  • Extend cost-saving energy efficiency programs that save people hundreds of millions of dollars on their electric bills each year. Expand requirements for energy efficiency investments in low-income households.
  • Expand economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities and people of color in the clean energy sector—both in the workforce and as business owners. Invest $115 million per year to create job training hubs and create career pipelines for the people who need them most, incubate and grow small clean energy businesses in disadvantaged communities, and more.
  • Clean up Illinois' transportation sector by creating planning processes for beneficial electrification, and providing rebates for electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. These policies are an important tool for reducing pollution from the transportation sector, our state’s largest source of carbon pollution.
  • Support communities and workers impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels. Invest up to $40 million per year to replace lost property taxes, and support economic development and job training. Creates a “bill of rights” for displaced workers and provides them with services and training.
  • Move towards cleaner buildings by creating a statewide stretch building code and including building electrification measures that reduce fossil fuel use in buildings as part of energy efficiency programs.
  • Provide limited support for nuclear plants. Provides payments to economically struggling Illinois nuclear plants totaling about $700 million over five years. The payments will be reduced if the plants receive federal subsidies. The amount of the subsidy was negotiated down from the plants' owner’s original proposal, and it was also informed by an independent analysis commissioned by the governor’s office.
  • Hold utilities accountable with stronger ethics rules and reforms. Replace formula rates (which allow utilities to spend money and profit with little oversight) with a system that makes utilities’ profits contingent on achieving equity and clean energy goals. Plan our electric grid in a more transparent, equitable way and help prepare the grid for electric vehicles and clean, efficient all-electric buildings (you can read in another blog post about why this matters). Improve transmission planning and support the construction of new transmission lines.
  • Create good-paying clean energy jobs across Illinois showing that economic growth and a healthier environment go hand-in-hand. Illinois already has more than 115,000 clean energy jobs, mostly in energy efficiency, with many in renewable energy and advanced transportation. This bill will grow all sectors of the clean energy and the jobs that come with them, and requires family-sustaining wages and benefits for most clean energy jobs in Illinois, encouraging union jobs while also ensuring that small businesses in disadvantaged communities can get a foothold.

Photo: J.C. Kibbey

What does passage of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act mean?

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act establishes Illinois as a national leader on climate, equity, and support for communities and workers as they transition away from fossil fuels. It will bring not only cleaner air and a safer climate, but good jobs across the state, and relief for environmental justice communities who have been waiting too long.

This bill shows our growing awareness of the urgent need to address the climate crisis that threatens our state. As Illinois’ House Speaker Chris Welch said during passage of the bill, “Our climate cannot wait. Climate change is going to cost us more if we don’t act now.”

It shows the growing power of the climate movement and in particular the growing power of environmental justice communities (including people from the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Blacks in Green, Clean Power Lake County, and others), who were central to both the policy design and political push for the legislation.

It shows that social equity and just transition are not only important, but politically crucial to the success of climate legislation—the breadth of the coalition and the overwhelming legislative support for the bill would not have been possible otherwise.

It shows the rapidly changing politics of climate action and the impact of plummeting clean energy prices.

Just a few years ago, laws requiring a fossil-free power sector were considered a pipe dream, even among the greenest states on the coasts. This rapid shift towards climate action and clean energy is as unprecedented as it is necessary.

We’re more aware that we are seeing the impacts of climate change rage around us, in real time. Climate change is no longer something we imagine in the distant future or as something that impacts far-away people. It is in our feeds and on the news every day. It is in our backyards, and Illinois is no exception.

This summer in Chicago was among the hottest on record, with record heat and severe drought across Northern Illinois harming farmers and echoing costly droughts in 2012 that were “almost certainly” driven by climate change. The Metro East area in southern Illinois set temperature records as well this year. Illinois had a front-row seat to the hottest summer in U.S. history in 2021.

Chicago set records for rainfall in 2018, 2019, and 2020, flooding homes and businesses. ”Uncharted” fluctuations in lake levels are causing property damage along the shore. Devastating floods in 2019 caused more than $6.2 billion in damage in the Midwest, including in Illinois—mostly in the central and southern parts of the state.

But we can prevent these impacts from getting worse. Illinois will send a powerful message if we require a carbon-free power sector—we’d be the first state in the Midwest to do so, and we’re currently the fourth largest coal producer in the nation. We can be a cornerstone for U.S. climate action, and U.S. action in turn is the cornerstone to global action ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this November.

For now, closer to home, Illinois appears to be days or even hours away from dramatically expanding clean energy, moving away from fossil fuels, and acting boldly on climate change.

As important as our actions are on the global and even international stage, the benefits in our backyard as just as important: good jobs, cleaner air, and economic opportunity—and across the board, prioritizing the people and communities who need them most.

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (SB2408) has redefined the possible and positioned Illinois as a national leader on equitable climate action.

This article was revised to reflect that SB2408 passed the Illinois Senate and expand the description of SB2408's policy provisions.

About the Authors

J.C. Kibbey

Illinois Clean Energy Advocate

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