Opinion: Clean energy should be Pritzker’s No. 1 priority

By Alexandra Yetter, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Elected officials wouldn’t know a crumbling ecosystem if a forest fire held up a sign saying it was the end of the world.

Yet, it is still truly baffling how—in a state as blue and agriculturally-centered as Illinois—environmental legislation is not the No. 1 priority of every legislator. What is especially puzzling is Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s ability to make good on his campaign promises of legalizing recreational marijuana and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 during  his first term, yet he is taking an inadequate approach to pushing for the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

Illinois’ Clean Energy Jobs Act is the Marvel Studios of green legislation, putting the U.S. Congress’ Green New Deal to shame. Not only is it more than 300 pages longer than the Green New Deal, but it provides a more comprehensive, logical approach to making clean energy a necessity while protecting those who will be put out of work with the potential restrictions on fossil fuel industries, as reported Sept. 3 by the Chronicle.

During an unrelated Oct. 7 press conference, Pritzker told reporters he was not optimistic about CEJA progressing during the fall veto session, according to an Oct. 9 article by the Daily Herald.

“[CEJA] is certainly something that’s being considered as part of a broader energy package,” Pritzker said at the conference. “We only have about 7% of our power being generated by wind and less than 1% by solar. We can do so much better, and we need to continue that drive toward renewables and toward clean energy policies.”

Pritzker undoubtedly sees the importance and groundbreaking opportunity for Illinois in passing CEJA, arguably the most progressive green energy bill in the nation. But it is his lack of  political pressure on legislators that is startling, given: There are 11 years left before the climate crisis is irreversible; it takes years to put CEJA’s proposed changes in full effect; and the Illinois Power Agency found the state is already falling behind on its renewable energy goals.

Young people clearly see the importance of passing environmental legislation, and activists in Illinois have repeatedly called for the state to not only pass CEJA, but to also declare a climate emergency, which was accomplished by New York City in June.

Young activists’ fervency and dedication to this global catastrophe is evident in the ongoing protests held by global activist groups like Extinction Rebellion.

Granted, there are a lot of important matters for politicians to address, especially when it comes to providing resources to disenfranchised groups. But all, including Pritzker, need to come to terms with the fact that, without far-reaching legislative changes, every social issue will be adversely impacted by the climate crisis.

This issue touches every person, but it gut-punches low-income communities and minority groups the hardest. If Pritzker truly wants to embody the groundbreaking, progressive actions he campaigned on, he cannot wait one more day to pass CEJA.

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