Lake County Board pledges to fight effects of climate change, backs Paris Agreement

  • Lake County Board member John Wasik

    Lake County Board member John Wasik

  • Lake County Board member Dick Barr

    Lake County Board member Dick Barr

 
 
An early version of the story incorrectly reported the vote breakdown on the resolution. Two members voted "no" and one voted "present." Seventeen voted "yes."

With overwhelming bipartisanship, the Lake County Board on Tuesday pledged to stem the harmful effects of climate change by implementing environmentally friendly programs.

In the same resolution, the board agreed to join a national group called the County Climate Coalition in supporting the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which seeks to combat climate change and keep global temperatures from rising by reducing emissions and taking other steps.

Board member John Wasik called the pledge a "road map" for protecting the environment. He talked about the many endangered species living in Lake County that are imperiled by climate change, as well as trails and infrastructure damaged by weather events.

"Climate change has gone beyond theory. It's observable fact," the Grayslake Democrat said. "We can think locally and heal globally."

Hawthorn Woods Democrat Jessica Vealitzek spoke in favor of the measure, too. Environmental change has become a public health issue and an economic issue that will affect future generations, she said.

"Our children need us to act now," Vealitzek said. "The time is now."

Only three of the 20 board members in attendance didn't favor the resolution: Republicans Dick Barr of Round Lake Beach, Brent Paxton of Zion and Michael Danforth of Fox River Grove. Barr and Paxton voted "no" while Danforth voted "present."

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Barr criticized the measure's support of the Paris climate pact, which the U.S. signed under President Barack Obama. President Donald Trump has said the U.S. will withdraw from the deal as soon as possible. Barr called the international plan "a fiction" and said inclusion of it in the Lake County document was a "political gotcha."

Danforth criticized the Paris Agreement's goals as unobtainable. And while he acknowledged climate change as a problem, he said the county's statement lacked specific actions to implement.

"We need to get serious," Danforth said. "There's no meat on the bones here."

Fellow Republican Steve Carlson spoke in favor both of the Lake County proposal and the goals of the Paris Agreement.

"It's our job to make the specifics later," said Carlson, of the Gurnee area. "The message is most important."

Lake Forest Republican Mike Rummel also backed the resolution. He admitted originally opposed the proposal but said he was won over by Vealitzek's advocacy during an earlier committee meeting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We need to be concerned about the environment, and we need to set the bar," Rummel said.

Lake County officials already have embraced environmental sustainability efforts by using low-emission vehicles, ensuring new buildings meet energy efficiency standards and using solar energy, among other tactics.

The resolution was the first piece of legislation put forth by the county's new energy and environment committee, which formed earlier this year. More Earth-friendly proposals are coming, said Round Lake Beach Democrat Terry Wilke, who leads the committee.

Officials believe the county board is the first in the Chicago area to adopt a resolution of this kind.

In a separate but related vote, the board adopted a pro-environment pledge created by a group of Chicago-area mayors called the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus. Officials said the Greenest Region Compact will help them prioritize environmentally responsible actions and track achievements.

Kane County has signed on to the regional deal, too.

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