Pritzker makes Illinois pitch at world climate conference
SPRINGFIELD - As global leaders met in Glasgow, Scotland, over the past two weeks to discuss the effects of and potential policy solutions to climate change, Gov. J.B. Pritzker made the case in a pair of speaking events that Illinois is doing its part to counteract troubling climate trends.
It was the governor's first international trip, which took him first to London to talk with business leaders, then to Glasgow to attend the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference.
On Monday, Pritzker joined Hawaii Gov. David Ige, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in a discussion about the states' efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
"I'm here to say that in America's heartland lies a state that's taking strides to match the urgency of this moment," Pritzker said, calling a recently passed energy regulatory overhaul a "nation-leading climate plan."
That climate bill, among several other provisions, aims to phase out carbon emissions in the state's energy sector by 2045 by increasing investments in renewables and the state's nuclear industry. Another goal of the climate bill and a follow-up business incentives package aims to put 1 million electric vehicles on Illinois roads by 2030.
The international visit was also an effort by Pritzker, members of his staff and Democratic leaders of the General Assembly to tout the state as a fertile ground for electric vehicle manufacturers.
"We created a bill and passed it only 10 days ago, but it is one of the best incentivizing EV producers, battery manufacturers and charging companies to build facilities and to create jobs in the state of Illinois," he said.
That measure, the Reimagine Electric Vehicles Act, passed the General Assembly with near unanimous support as lawmakers and the governor's office shared a sense of urgency in the effort to lure business development in the competitive electric vehicle industry to the state.
The incentives include credits ranging from 50 percent to 100 percent of income tax withheld for a new job created or employee retained in the industry in Illinois, depending on factors such as company location. It also provides tax credits for training costs, among other incentives.
At a separate keynote address delivered on Sunday at a roundtable of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Pritzker echoed sentiments he shared when signing the energy bill in September.
"Never in human history has the world faced a more urgent climate emergency than the one we face today," Pritzker said, according to prepared remarks shared by his office.
Since he's been in office, Pritzker said, the state has faced a record-breaking polar vortex, rising water levels on Lake Michigan, extreme heat and emergency declarations in more than one-third of Illinois counties, and "100-year floods that now happen nearly every 12 months across our farm communities and cities."
"Make no mistake, the days we hoped would never come, the consequences that decades worth of scholars and scientists have warned us about, are here," Pritzker said, according to the prepared remarks. "As the governor of one of the largest states in the U.S., I can tell you that not a week goes by where my state is not tackling a crisis or planning for the next one brought on by the effects of climate change."
Aside from the recently passed legislation, Illinois also has strong infrastructure, a central placement making it a distribution hub, is home to engineering schools at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University, and houses top national laboratories Argonne and Fermilab, Pritzker said.
"It all adds up to this: Illinois intends to become the best place in North America to drive and manufacture an electric vehicle," Pritzker said, inviting business leaders to "join us in Illinois as we build the beating heart of this industry in North America. Help us reduce emissions from the transportation sector and build out the infrastructure of the future."
As Pritzker gears up for a fight for a second term, he also told his fellow Democratic governors there's more to be done on the climate change front in Illinois.
"We're not through just because we made a climate plan that we're very proud of and are attracting electric vehicle manufacturers and changing our economy to become more of a green economy," he said. "We know there is more to do and we will be hard at work at that."
Pritzker's overseas trip was scheduled to conclude Tuesday.