Earlier this month Congressman Mike Quigley, whose 5th Congressional District borders Logan Square, got behind national legislation that will address climate change by putting a fee on carbon emissions and returning the money to all Americans.
The legislation is something that many residents have advocated for because they believe it has the best chance of quickly reducing the effects of climate change and driving growth in clean energy production.
“Congress is rightly focusing on helping people and businesses in an economy devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Paul Christianson, a Logan Square architect and climate activist. “But climate change is the next major crisis needing immediate attention. I’m thankful that Mike Quigley has decided to become a co-sponsor of a bill that will drive down America’s carbon pollution and help bring climate change under control.”
From devastating fires out West to supersaturating hurricanes in the South, experts say climate change is another looming health and economic crisis nationwide. Chicago sees the effects, too: The city has yet to experience measurable snowfall this year; 14-foot waves crashed along the lakefront in early December as the level of Lake Michigan swelled to three feet above its 100-year average, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which keeps tabs on the Great Lakes.
To help solve this problem, local volunteers with Citizens Climate Lobby, an international climate action group, have met for years with elected officials in Washington to advocate for a carbon fee and dividend plan. Although Quigley strongly supports the environment, he had been unwilling to take a position on H.R. 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, the legislation CCL volunteers promote.
But the political winds have shifted since the presidential election. After CCL’s virtual meeting with Quigley and legislative aide Max Frankel on Dec. 8, he decided to become a co-sponsor of the bill. That meeting was one of 375 virtual meetings CCL volunteers had with congressional offices nationally — nearly 25 percent of them face-to-face with a member of Congress. As a result, the Energy Innovation Act now has 86 co-sponsors.
Quigley became the 83rd co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill. He joins five other Chicagoland representatives in Congress that support it: Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, whose 4th Congressional District includes Logan Square, Robin Kelly, Danny Davis, Jan Schakowsky and the outgoing Dan Lipinski, who lost his re-election bid to ad exec Marie Newman of La Grange.
“Putting a fee on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas will effectively address climate change because it will lower carbon emissions by at least 40 percent in the first 12 years,” said Dylan Schweitzer, a financial analyst and CCL volunteer. “And the carbon dividend puts money directly in people’s pockets every month to spend as they see fit.”
Schweitzer said the Energy Innovation Act’s carbon fee, which is returned 100 percent to people, will benefit the most economically vulnerable.
“For families with the least means to weather any economic burden of a carbon fee, 96 percent of them will come out ahead,” he added, citing a 2020 economic impact study commissioned by CCL.
In Chicago, 80 percent of residents believe global warming is happening and 67 percent are worried about it, according to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication’s 2020 opinion map.
In 2019, Chicago became the largest city to pass a municipal resolution that supports creating a national carbon fee and dividend system. The resolution was advocated by the Chicago chapters of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
“Our elected officials in Chicago are signaling their readiness to work on climate change,” said Caroline Eichler, an Avondale resident. “And with leadership from President-elect Joe Biden — who wants to flip the switch on how energy is produced in America — I believe real action on climate change is possible next year.”
Activists say the carbon fee and dividend legislation will improve people’s health by reducing pollution and will directly impact Logan Square.
“Logan Square, adjacent to a major highway and in the flight path of one of the world’s busiest airports, stands to see material gains in air quality and sound pollution from a transition to renewable energy,” Eichler said.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Florida democrat, is expected to reintroduce the carbon fee and dividend bill in the House of Representatives when the 117th Congress meets in January.