As Governor Pritzker delivers his 2021 budget address against a backdrop of multiple crises facing Illinois, the need has never been greater for bold, equitable, legislation that creates jobs and grows our clean energy economy.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is the way to do that. “CEJA is a key component to economic recovery and building back better,” according to Representative Kam Buckner, chair of the House Legislative Black Caucus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken lives and taken livelihoods, damaged our economy, and hit Black Illinoisans especially hard. The crisis of racial inequity is as old as America but has rightly taken on a fierce urgency, embodied by the Illinois Black Caucus’ bold agenda. We are facing growing harms from climate change: worse and more frequent floods, more extreme heat, and, some scientists hypothesize, more brutal arctic storms like the one that just hit Illinois.
Last fall, Governor Pritzker wrote about his vision for the Biden Administration to “build back better,” and to “build an economy for a new era … that creates millions of good-paying union jobs through a clean energy revolution, that advances racial equality and opportunity.”
He’s absolutely right, but the need to build back better is just as strong in Springfield as it is in Washington. As CEJA chief co-sponsor and Latino Caucus Co-Chair Senator Cristina Castro put it, “CEJA is the most comprehensive energy bill … [and] without it, President Biden cannot achieve his ambitious climate change goals. Illinois must lead the way.”
States can and must lay the foundation for strong federal climate policy, and states across America already have. California, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, and Washington have all passed 100% renewable or 100% carbon-free energy targets into law. Arizona and Massachusetts are poised to join that group in the coming weeks. Among states whose governors and legislative leaders claim to be concerned about climate change, Illinois stands nearly alone in its inaction.
Clean energy can do much more than just address the climate crisis, though—it can be a pathway to good jobs for the people who need them most. “Clean energy must become an engine of safety and stability in our communities,” said Senator Robert Peters, chair of the Senate Legislative Black Caucus, “and CEJA is the only comprehensive energy bill that builds on that promise.”
More than a year ago, Governor Pritzker called on the legislature to pass clean energy legislation that puts consumers and climate first, and isn’t written by utility companies (again, CEJA fits the bill; "the most grassroots-intensive energy policy development effort in the history of Illinois," per Representative Ann Williams, a chief co-sponsor of CEJA).
Many things have changed in the twelve difficult months since then. One thing hasn’t: the need for bold, equitable climate action. Every day that goes by is a missed opportunity for clean air, good jobs, and a livable planet.
Illinoisans from every corner of our state are asking Governor Pritzker to commit to passing bold, equitable climate legislation this spring that will help Illinois build back better. If he makes that commitment today, all eyes will be on him to ensure that those words are followed up with action—and a signed bill by May.
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The Clean Energy Jobs Act is an essential part of Illinois’ economic recovery. It protects public health and creates good-paying jobs, while ensuring that the people most in need of good jobs and clean air are at the front of the line.