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BBC Evaluates Chicago's Green Claims

By Lindsey Miller in News on Dec 16, 2009 7:20PM

In light of the climate summit currently happening (or not, depending on your point of view) in Copenhagen, the BBC is visiting eight cities around the world to assess how governments and citizens are tackling climate change. Chicago is the only city in North America to have received a visit. The BBC Climate Connections team set out to find out whether we actually are one of the greenest cities in the country. Their findings are available in the form of a Newshour Live broadcast through WBEZ (embedded below) and coverage on the BBC website.

The gist of the broadcast was that the city government and Mayor Daley have one idea of the how green the city is, while residents and activists have another. Because of Chicago's relatively high population density and public transportation availability, carbon emissions from cars tend to be less, while buildings actually account for 70 percent of the total emissions. In the broadcast, Newshour's Robin Lustig tours some of the city's parks and green buildings, then visits one of the two coal-fired power plants within the city limits. City Commissioner Suzanne Malec-McKenna, who's in charge of environmental policies on the city level, says the coal-fired plants are regulated by federal and state governments and the city has little control over them. She also notes that the city has been promoting green jobs and building over 1,000 community gardens across the city for the past 15 years.

"There's going to be some type of climate legislation at the federal level, I firmly believe that. It's not, in my opinion, a local issue as much as it is a regional and national and international issue ... I'm not saying the city has no power, but we have limited responsibilities and powers, and ours are specifically around air quality."

The Chicago Reader's Mick Dumke believes the city has made some environmental improvements, but they're not worth celebrating quite yet.

"Chicago certainly deserves praise for getting the discussion started; however, the marketing has outpaced the reality in terms of policy. We don't walk around here in clouds of soot anymore, which is great; things are a lot better. But I don't know that the fact that we're not in the horrific environmental condition of the 19th century is a reason to pat ourselves on the back."

Listen to the full BBC broadcast here:

[h/t Gapers Block]