Like The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, the Downstate Caucus has adopted a set of norms that include following 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.
Interested in learning more or becoming involved? Contact Pam Richart, Eco-Justice Collaborative.
Natural Climate Solutions Working Group
Downstate Caucus, Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition
The Downstate Caucus (DSC) of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition has, for years, recognized the importance of augmenting energy policy with natural solutions. When deployed in tandem with implementing the recently-approved Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, natural climate solutions can further reduce GHG and stabilize our climate. This work is essential, given the facts outlined in the recent technical report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Scientists are saying that the ability of our planet’s natural systems (e.g., forests, oceans, wetlands, grasslands, prairies) to take up CO2 will decline as our emissions increase. This is because these systems already have been absorbing CO2 generated by the burning of fossil fuels and other natural processes, and they will not be able to absorb the same proportion of greenhouse gases as temperatures continue to rise.
Given the unique geography, opportunities, culture and other attributes specific to downstate Illinois, DSC Natural Climate Solutions Working Group is uniquely suited to educate, build power around, and then help create, restore, and expand carbon sinks in the following areas:
- Afforestation / Reforestation. Planting trees where none previously existed, or where they were removed, can help draw down and store carbon. Opportunities exist to explore the potential for planting trees on abandoned mined lands in central and southern Illinois
- Forest Protection. Forest land, harvested wood products, woodlands, and urban trees collectively represent the largest net carbon sink in the United States, offsetting more than 11% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. Forests in central and southern Illinois, which include the Shawnee National Forest, need to be protected from timber harvesting and development. In addition to preventing carbon emissions, forest protection would enhance biodiversity, control erosion, and promote ecotourism.
- Agrivoltaics. Agrivoltaics ("agriculture” and “photovoltaics”) can reduce competition between energy development and agriculture by colocating on the same parcel of land. This technology provides numerous benefits, including lowering carbon emissions; improving yields for a variety of crops; minimizing water use; providing another source of income for farmers; and improving soil health. If land is farmed regeneratively or when farmland around solar panels is planted with deep-rooted, native plants, farmland can potentially store carbon.
- Tree Equity. Urban trees capture and store up to 2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. But an inequitable distribution of trees places people of color at greater risk from rising temperatures and prolonged heat waves. Expanding tree equity can increase carbon capture and store; protect all people from the health impacts associated with climate change; lower utility bills; improve property values; and reduce violent crime.
- Regenerative Agriculture. Seventy-five percent of Illinois' land is in agriculture. Most is farmed conventionally, with practices that kill soil. Healthy soil can sequester carbon. Farming regeneratively, with practices such as no-till, planting cover crops, diversifying and rotating crops, moving animals back onto the land, so they naturally fertilize the soil and replacing synthetic fertilizers with organic compost are known to help sequester carbon. They also can reduce erosion, improve water quality, and restore biodiversity and wildlife habitat. Food that is farmed regeneratively, and in communities of color can produce more nutrient-dense food, reduce food-apartheid, and generate jobs.