Policy Watch

Illinois makes history against climate change



The Foundation congratulates all of its grantees and coalition partners who worked for years with perseverance and commitment to pass a historic new Illinois law making the state a national leader in the battle against climate change.

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, signed September 15 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, is a groundbreaking achievement that helps secure the state’s clean energy future by committing to a 100 percent carbon-free electric power sector by 2045.

It includes dozens of forward-thinking policy advancements that increase utility accountability and consumer energy affordability, while reducing environmental harm to communities and providing equitable access to good paying jobs.

“The new law is innovative and inclusive – and inspiring,” Foundation President Ellen Alberding and Environment Program Co-director Ed Miller wrote in a congratulations note to the coalition partners. “Your efforts moved our state in the right direction, and you should be proud. We are certainly proud of you, and we stand ready to work with you on the successful implementation of this historic legislation.”

Establishing state policies to reduce carbon emissions from the electric power sector and prioritizing equity in the transition to clean energy are top priorities for the Foundation’s Environment program. In the Midwest, Joyce has been among the leading foundations funding research and advocacy in this area.

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, which was instrumental in passing the legislation, was a broader, more diverse group of advocates than had ever before built an environmental policy campaign in Illinois. Foundation grantees maintained an exceptionally cohesive working relationship, allowing them to help forge crucial agreements as the bill came together in difficult negotiations over the summer.

The new law has national significance: Illinois has become the first state in the Midwest to adopt a binding requirement to eliminate carbon pollution from the electric power sector. It sets a new mark for equity-focused provisions to meet the needs of low-income residents, communities historically burdened by high levels of pollution, and communities that have hosted fossil fuel power plants.

“This major climate policy gain in the heartland of the country also gives the U.S. momentum as we head into the global climate meetings in Glasgow, Scotland, in November,” Miller said.

Delmar Gillus, chief operating officer at Elevate, a coalition partner and Joyce grantee, said the new law “in a nutshell, is a gamechanger.”

“It is going to create literally tens of thousands of jobs in underserved and environmental justice communities,” Gillus told WTTW. “It’s going to create opportunities for those that want to get into the space from a job creation, entrepreneurship perspective. CEJA is also going to reduce, significantly, the amount of pollution in underserved communities.”

Among the law’s key provisions:

  • Mandates 100% carbon-free electric power system by 2045
  • Mandates 100% renewable electricity by 2050 (after the state’s final nuclear plants are retired)
  • Supports existing nuclear plants for five years, protecting thousands of high-paying jobs
  • Closes all privately owned coal power plants by 2030 and provides $40 million per year in transition supports to displaced workers and host communities
  • Quadruples the amount of solar and wind power in Illinois over the next decade
  • Invests $80 million annually in equity-focused workforce development programs, including 13 workforce development hubs and programs serving soon-to-be-released people incarcerated in Illinois prisons
  • Creates new diversity and equity requirements for all renewable energy project hiring, and dedicated support for disadvantaged contractors to participate in the clean energy economy
  • Expands the “Solar For All” program from $10 million to $50 million per year to ensure the benefits of solar energy reach Illinois’ low-income communities
  • Commits up to $80 million per year to support transportation electrification, with at least 45 percent of the funds going to low-income and environmental justice communities and with a goal of having 1 million electric vehicles on the road in Illinois by 2030
  • Extends current successful energy efficiency programs beyond 2030
  • Creates new accountability measures for Illinois’ electric and natural gas utilities

About The Joyce Foundation

Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

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