Sept. 15, 2022 - Oak Park may only be 4.5 square miles, but local leaders recognize that actions and choices made by individual residents and communities to address climate change can help lay the groundwork for a healthier environment.
This summer the Village Board approved Climate Ready Oak Park, a comprehensive, long-range plan that provides a vision, goals and actions to make Oak Park more sustainable and resilient.
The plan was created through a months-long process involving input from hundreds of community residents and stakeholders.
Community members can learn more about Climate Ready Oak Park and the steps Oak Park’s governing partners are taking to address climate change at the next IGOV meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24 in the cafeteria at Oak Park and River Forest High School, 201 Scoville Ave. The informational workshop focused on sustainability will include tips for saving on energy bills and small group discussions about areas of focus highlighted in Climate Ready Oak Park.
The Climate Ready Oak Park plan outlines five main goals:
1. Decrease community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2030, relative to 2019 emission levels.
2. Achieve community-wide net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
3. Establish 30 percent of Oak Park's land as green infrastructure or enhanced park management for native plants, wildlife and people.
4. Direct 40 percent of public climate and sustainability dollars to the most vulnerable and impacted community members.
5. Partner with frontline organizations and the most impacted community members to create climate and sustainability policies and programs.
“Climate Ready Oak Park charts a course to fight climate change and protect our environment, using equitable processes,” said Marcella Bondie Keenan, Village Sustainability Coordinator. “Climate and sustainability are not an add-on to essential services. They actually improve Village services, helping us prepare for unpredictable climate impacts.”
Climate Ready Oak Park was created in a process led by the Village’s Office of Sustainability and with the heavy input of residents. The process emphasized procedural equity and incorporated affinity groups.
The Village held design workshops and community events, engaged citizen commissions and utilized other opportunities for involvement. The resulting plan is rooted in social equity, community well-being and the expressed priorities and visions of the Oak Park community, according to Bondie Keenan.
During the plan development phase, in which the Oak Park community was invited to express its vision and goals, the Climate Ready Oak Park engagement website was visited by 17,673 unique users, many of whom returned multiple times, resulting in 61,070 total website visits.
The Climate Ready community meeting kit was downloaded 91 times, and more than 580 residents and community group members submitted survey responses and contributed 308 comments on a map of the Village.
The planning process also used detailed technical analysis of Oak Park’s environmental conditions. The plan identifies residential buildings, commercial buildings and internal-combustion engine transportation, mainly personal cars, as the largest generators of greenhouse gas emissions for Oak Park.
In addition, the plan recognizes that people who will likely most suffer from adverse impacts of climate change are those who are already under pressure from various societal pressures and challenges: people of color, immigrants, refugees, people with disabilities, older adults and youth, unhoused and food insecure individuals, people with health conditions, economically disadvantaged individuals and people and communities experiencing systemic discrimination. To that end, the plan heavily emphasizes equity.
Climate Ready Oak Park incorporates strategies for climate hazard adaptation, biodiversity protection, and other community needs and priorities within eight Impact Areas:
- Energy Use in Buildings and Housing
- Climate Resilience and Extreme Weather
- Community Health and Environmental Quality
- Sustainable Economic Development
- Healthy and Sustainable Food
- Waste Reduction
- Parks, Plants, and Biodiversity
To fully implement Climate Ready Oak Park, officials say it will require the support and collaboration from governmental partners, regional, state and federal agencies, businesses, residents, community organizations and all areas of Village operations and policy.
More information about Climate Ready Oak Park is available at www.oak-park.us/climateplan or by contacting ClimatePlan@oak-park.us or 708.358.5770.