Preparing Chicago for Climate Change - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Preparing Chicago for Climate Change


The city should implement the Resilient Chicago plan for inclusive growth and a connected city. Resilient Chicago sets forth a framework for building urban resilience that addresses the chronic stresses—such as racial inequity—and acute shocks—like heat waves and severe flooding—facing the City of Chicago. It lists 50 actions focusing on building stronger, equitable neighborhoods, robust infrastructure and prepared communities. City departments and agencies are leading many actions, and will be a critical partner in multiple other actions led by civic organizations and community stakeholders.

Executive Order

Resilient Chicago was released on February 14, 2019 as an outgrowth of Chicago’s participation in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative. Developed by city staff and a diverse Steering Committee comprising neighborhood, civic, private and philanthropic partners, it is a solid foundation to build upon.

Recommendation: Issue an Executive Order requiring relevant City of Chicago departments and agencies to commit to Resilient Chicago implementation.


There are structural changes needed to remove the discriminatory practices and policies that have caused disparities disproportionately burdening Chicago’s most vulnerable residents. We must take action in order to build our resilience benefitting everyone. This cannot just be another plan sitting on bookshelves.

Recommendation: Implement Resilient Chicago. Convene a diverse Implementation Committee, expand public engagement and commit to making progress on prioritized actions.


Housed in the Mayor’s Office, the Chief Resilience Officer (a position funded by the Rockefeller Foundation) was the central point person at the city spearheading the effort to develop Resilient Chicago. With the pending mayoral transition, it is unclear who will oversee implementation and how. City staff and departments are identified as leads on some actions. For others led by partners, city staff will need to coordinate with partners. The city should play a role providing general oversight for strategy implementation.

Recommendation: Dedicate adequate city staffing resources to carry forth Resilient Chicago. Charge the Implementation Committee to provide a recommendation, upon assessing various options. Different models include empowering a Chief Resilience Officer tasked with coordination of resilience and equity team leaders embedded in every department, reintroducing a Department of Environment and Sustainability, or establishing a Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Racial Equity to oversee implementation (a model adopted by the City of Boston). Ensure continuity and heightened coordination across multiple city departments and agencies involved in executing actions in Resilient Chicago.


100 Day Actions

  • Determine city staffing needs and designate a city point person who will oversee implementation of Resilient Chicago.
  • Issue an Executive Order requiring relevant City of Chicago departments to commit to Resilient Chicago Announce around Earth Day (4/22) the new mayoral administration’s commitment to implement Resilient Chicago.
  • Expand the Steering Committee to include leaders from environmental justice, urban agriculture, small business, and public health, as well as suburban municipal voices and convene as an “Implementation Committee” charged with prioritizing near-term actions, “flagship initiatives” and drafting implementation work plans in coordination with city staff.
First Year Actions and Goals
  • Establish a social media campaign to raise awareness of activities being undertaken and to enhance understanding of Chicago’s shocks and stresses.
  • Execute a deeper public engagement process to raise awareness, enhance understanding of Chicago’s shocks and stresses and gather input and commitments to implement Resilient Chicago.
  • Advance substantive progress on “flagship” initiatives, estimate implementation costs and determine timeline of milestones.
  • Determine allocations of $70 million from Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge and investigate new locally controlled funding sources to support additional resilience-related activities in Resilient Chicago.
  • Develop a public dashboard to track implementation progress, and release a 1-year Anniversary scorecard celebrating successes.
First Term Goals
  • All of the prioritized near-term actions should be fully implemented.
  • Examine and secure new city, state and philanthropic funding for implementation, and help partner entities secure funding for implementation.
  • Issue updated status report and/or Resilient Chicago strategy document (and accompanying implementation work plans) reflecting leadership and direction of new Mayor.

Additional Considerations

Why the time is right

The metro Chicago region and the State of Illinois have committed to policies, programs and platforms that require aggressive climate action:

  • Ready for 100 commitment to transition Chicago to 100 percent clean, renewable energy in buildings community-wide by 2035 and complete electrification of the CTA bus fleet by 2040
  • Chicago Climate Charter committing Chicago (as well as 10 suburban Cook municipalities) to the Paris Agreement (26 to 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025)
  • Chicago’s commitment to transition all public building electricity use to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2025
  • Chicago is accepted into the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge, a two-year acceleration program that will provide new resources and access to support to accelerate emissions reductions
  • CMAP’s ON TO 2050 comprehensive regional plan heavily emphasized inclusive growth and resilience in every recommendation
  • Metropolitan Mayors Caucus’ Greenest Region Compact has been adopted by more than 100 communities
  • Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order for Illinois to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, agreeing to advance the goals of the Paris Agreement

Chicago residents, businesses, investors as well as cities across the nation will be looking to the City of Chicago for bold leadership in the work ahead. This is the opportune time for Chicago’s next mayor to seize this momentum and demonstrate action that places equity at the forefront by embracing Resilient Chicago.

What it will take

Executing Resilient Chicago to its fullest will require an emphasis on achieving racial, social and economic equity, as well as bold climate action. This will take a deeper understanding of urban resilience and city leadership on specific actions. Mayoral staff and departments will need to forge partnerships with civic, resident and business stakeholders across the city and surrounding municipalities for successful implementation.

Other considerations

Implementing Resilient Chicago calls for coordination, transparency and a commitment to this strategy as well as other comparable commitments and documents. Chicago has access to multiple networks and forums to bolster its capacity, seek technical assistance and learn from peers. Among a few are 100 Resilient Cities, Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge, C40, and Chicago Council on Global Affairs annual Chicago Forum on Global Cities.

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