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Downstate Caucus
The Downstate Caucus (DSC) was founded shortly before the Future Energy Jobs Act was passed as a way to build power down state for the policy goals and pillars of the Illinois Climate Table (ICAT) which are:

  1. Achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050.
  2. Creating sustainable and equitable jobs.
  3. Realizing a  carbon-free power sector by 2030.
  4. Reducing carbon pollution from the transportation system (via electrifying).

The primary purpose of the DSC is to coordinate work between downstate advocacy organizations across Illinois with the ICAT in support of reducing carbon and other greenhouse gases. Pam Richart of EJC serves on the leadership team for the Downstate Caucus of the Illinois State Climate Table. This is an elected position.  

The Downstate Caucus works with the ICAT to ensure implementation of strong and just state renewable energy and energy efficiency goals in Illinois.  As such, we have created the following working groups to support the goals of the Illinois Climate Action Table:

  • Community Resilience Planning (community-driven response to climate change, where solutions most relevant to the community’s unique assets and threats are identified and implemented).
  • Electrifying the Transportation System (moving our automobile fleet from gas-powered vehicles to those powered by solar-powered electricity; encouraging mass transit in downstate Illinois to power fleets with solar electricity; facilitating the installation of charging stations in downstate Illinois to meet the demand of electric-powered vehicles; and working with the Illinois Climate Table to implement the Illinois Electric Vehicles for All program.  Ranked #26 of top 100 solutions, Project Drawdown).
  • Energy Efficiency (reducing energy consumption by using less energy to attain the same amount of useful output through techniques such as insulation and weatherization; energy efficient lighting, appliances, heating and cooling systems; water savings devises, solar water heating and tankless hot water systems; smart meters that help consumers control their energy use; and passive solar design. Energy efficiency saves consumers money and creates jobs).
  • Energy Transformation and Jobs Creation (moving municipalities to 100% renewable energy with rooftop and community solar and the Illinois Solar for All program; tackling the municipal and rural electric cooperatives, which have leases tied to coal; and workforce development.  Rooftop solar is ranked #10 of top 100 solutions, Project Drawdown).
  • Environmental Justice (making sure environmental justice is incorporated into all DSC work; working on just transition policies for workers and communities in coal plant and coal mining communities).

Natural Climate Solutions
But the Downstate Caucus has also expanded beyond the Illinois Climate Action Table's policies to include natural climate solutions that, when deployed in tandem with the ICAT pillars, can further reduce GHG and stabilize our climate. We believe these solutions are essential if we are to keep global temperature increases below 2ºC. They offer the DSC and the ICAT the opportunity to further build power, while capitalizing on the unique geography, opportunities, culture and other attributes specific to downstate Illinois.These natural solutions include: 

  • Afforestation / Reforestation (planting trees where none previously existed, or where they were removed, to draw down carbon and stabilize our climate; protecting forests. Ranked #15 of top #100 solutions, Project Drawdown). 
  • Forest Protection - In 2015, there were an estimated three trillion trees in the world, and more than 15 billion are estimated to be cut down each year. Carbon emissions from deforestation and associated land use change are estimated to be 10 to 15 percent of the world’s total. In addition to preventing carbon emissions, forest protection would enhance biodiversity, control erosion control,  and promote ecotourism. Ranked #38 of top #100 solutions, Project Drawdown).
  • Organic Waste Diversion (diverting food and other organic waste, such as landscape materials, from landfills, where they produce carbon and methane; reducing volume of food waste in the supply chain through education including rotting on the farm or while in storage or willful waste associated with disposal of bruised or discolored food and over-ordering. Reducing food waste is ranked #3 of top 100 solutions, Project Drawdown).
  • Regenerative Agriculture (enhancing and sustaining the health of the soil by incorporating permaculture and organic farming practices, including conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, composting, mobile animal shelters and pasture cropping; increases food production and farmers’ income; and sequesters carbon.  Ranked #11 of top #100 solutions, Project Drawdown).

Although not a natural climate or energy solution, the Downstate Caucus is also supporting plastics recycling, given the urgent need to address this waste stream in our environment. This includes a pilot project that will break down single-use plastics and reconstitute plastics back into usable products to help close the loop on single-use plastics and help divert waste from the landfill or surrounding environment.

Working with Jemez Principles
Like the ICAT, the DSC has adopted a set of norms that include the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing.  We know that if we are to be able to function in accordance with these principles, we need to expand the diversity of our Caucus and work to build inclusiveness into our strategic planning initiatives. To that end, the DSC is committed to: 

  • Identify community representatives and groups historically left out of this conversation, and invite them to participate in our Caucus and the deep decarbonization summit.
  • Build relationships and trust that would allow us to create together a long-term vision with near-term actions that address equitable decarbonization.
  • Work together in solidarity and mutuality, supporting one another’s initiatives.
  • Address equitable resource distribution, ensuring groups receive funding to participate equitably.
  • Continue to expand the diversity of our Caucus over time through actions associated with our strategic plan that promote equity, inclusivity, and justice via deep decarbonization.

Contact Pam Richart for more.