City of Chicago: Mayor Lightfoot announces historic investment in tree equity in recently passed budget

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November 4, 2021

CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot highlighted a historic expansion and reorientation of the city’s tree planting operations, funded by $ 46 million in municipal funding. As part of the Mayor’s new tree equity strategy, the city will plant 75,000 trees across the city over the next 5 years. This represents a doubling of tree planting compared to the previous year. The tree equity strategy will prioritize planting trees in historically marginalized and underserved communities, equitably passing on ecosystem benefits to communities disproportionately affected by the climate crisis. This effort will help meet the City’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate, environmental justice and equity.

“Our new tree planting strategy is part of our efforts to tackle the climate crisis,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Achieving bold and fair climate goals is essential for our city to continue to thrive. These investments will directly benefit our residents in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change and help cope with decades of divestment. ”

While city-wide canopy cover in Chicago is 16%, it can vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood, ranging from less than 10% to 46%. Coverage of forest canopy can have a direct impact on neighborhood air quality, temperature, flooding and public health. At the heart of the city’s new approach, trees will be planted where they are most needed for health and equity.

“We expect this historic investment to deliver historic results. By taking an equity-focused, data-driven approach, we can identify where trees can have the greatest impact and work directly with residents and community groups in those areas to plant and maintain trees, ”said Angela Tovar, Director of Sustainable Development for the City of Chicago. “We are committed to building a safer, stronger and fairer Chicago for all.”

The Chicago Department of Public Health has spearheaded the creation of a new “community site selection tool” that brings together data on tree canopy, air quality, land surface temperatures, hardships. economic and other factors, with support from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Partnership for Healthy Cities. The city will use the tool to work with local nonprofits and community groups to identify priority communities and locations for planting trees. This, combined with the increased funding for tree planting over the next five years, will help increase the number of trees in city neighborhoods and reduce the impacts of climate change on these communities. Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono city advisory service, provided strategic advice on the development and deployment of the tree equity strategy.

“Mayor Lightfoot’s investment will have a significant positive impact on the health of Chicago’s urban forest,” said Lydia Scott, director of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the city to provide an increased and more evenly distributed canopy in its neighborhoods. ”

Investing in trees is a key part of Mayor Lightfoot’s ‘all-in’ approach to tackling the climate crisis and is part of new $ 188 million funding to build resilience in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by the effects of the climate crisis. Neighborhood-specific climate interventions will build a safer, stronger and fairer city for all and cover a wide range of environmental issues, from land remediation to tree planting. Each climate and environmental initiative has been developed with a racial equity lens, centered on historically marginalized and underserved environmental justice communities.

“Cities are on the front lines of climate change, are directly impacted by extreme weather conditions, but are also able to deploy the solutions needed to reduce carbon emissions and protect residents,” said Adam Freed, Director of Sustainability at Bloomberg Associates. “Mayor Lightfoot’s historic investment in climate solutions, his foundational commitment to equity and the use of data to target investments make him a national model for smart and impact-driven climate action.

Other key investments include:

  • $ 25.75 million to create 20 new green and resilient schoolyards in public schools in the city’s most flood-prone areas. This initiative builds on the highly successful Green Alley program and allocates resources to communities facing disproportionate amounts of climate change-related flooding.
  • $ 41 million to renovate 500 low-income homes and units, create neighborhood resilience centers, install solar power in 5 public libraries, and use existing roofs of industrial facilities to install community solar power. These energy projects build climate resilience, lower utility bills for low-income residents, create well-paying jobs, and accelerate our just transition to a renewable energy economy.
  • $ 75 million in a holistic set of community-level climate projects that target some of the highest priority and most challenging environmental issues. These projects will improve the diversion of organic materials, clean up large areas of contaminated land, decarbonize the City’s fleets and buildings, clean up our waterways, finance strategic neighborhood climate resilience projects and invest in a network of historic trails.

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