Local voices: Strong climate policies key to economic recovery

  • Milton Pinsky

    Milton Pinsky

Updated 9/16/2020 11:55 AM

If we are to build back a stronger, better and more equitable economy, now is the time for ambitious climate policy.

Last month, Gov. Pritzker announced a bold vision for a clean energy-driven recovery that would create new jobs and economic engines for communities that are struggling because of the pandemic. That's good, because Illinois' economic recovery depends on innovation, and implementation of Gov. Pritzker's plan will lead to a stronger recovery.


The actions of states and municipalities to support clean energy and address climate change are one of the things we review in deciding whether to invest in new properties in the region. As chair of the Board of my company, I understand firsthand that we need policies that can both tackle climate change and the threat it poses in order to create an environment for Illinois' economy and workers to thrive. I think every day about how our properties best serve our tenants and how our real estate investments best serve our investors for now and long-term.

I've been a part of the Illinois business community my entire career. In 1989, I founded Banner Real Estate with my dad and my brother. The company now oversees a growing real estate portfolio of self-storage, senior and apartment buildings worth over $1.3 billion. I know that the more Illinois leads on combating climate change, the more we will grow and the more prepared and resilient our economy will be for its challenges.

It made national news when Blackrock, the world's largest asset management company, announced that climate change would be at the forefront of its investment decisions. This is common sense. Climate change represents one of the gravest threats our economy has ever faced. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, countries face economic damages of $54 trillion if the world gets 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer between now and 2040. In the United States alone, climate change could cost our economy $500 billion per year by the end of the century, according to the latest National Climate Assessment. My company has divested (and a nonprofit housing corporation I co-founded is divesting) our south Florida portfolio of properties because we expect them to literally be underwater by the end of the century and wanted to get out before the property values went down.

While the cost of inaction on climate is profound, the benefits of investing in a clean energy future are immense. According to Clean Jobs Midwest, there were 125,000 clean energy jobs in Illinois at the end of last year. Clean energy jobs are more than just installing wind turbines and solar panels; they're also good jobs making our homes and businesses more energy efficient -- something I fully appreciate given properties in my company's portfolio.

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Gov. Pritzker recently outlined eight principles to guide a clean energy future for our state. Those principles are a great starting point. We must make Illinois a renewable energy leader, and phase out dirty power while supporting communities transitioning to clean energy. Investing in clean energy will build our state's economy for the long-haul, attract new clean energy investments and provide the needed market certainty for new businesses to set up shop and grow here in Illinois.

While the Governor's eight principles are a strong starting point, we must also consider what's in pending legislation like the Clean Energy Jobs Act, and do more to help train our state's workforce for the jobs of the future.

Let's not waste time. A cleaner, more robust, more resilient, more equitable economy is around the corner. Investors, business leaders -- and voters -- are watching and waiting.

• Milton Pinsky is chairman and majority owner of Banner Real Estate Group in Northbrook

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