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ICJC News Release: Mayor Johnson, Ald. Hadden, Business Leaders, and Environmental Justice Advocates Announce Introduction of Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance (CABO)

With nearly 1 in 5 residents behind on their gas bills and gas rates continuing to increase, Mayor Brandon Johnson and Committee of Environmental Protection and Energy Chair Ald. Maria Hadden (49) announced Tuesday the introduction of the Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance (CABO). The proposal would require newly constructed buildings to comply with an emission standard, requiring zero-to-low emission energy systems, a key first step in the necessary transition away from dirty, expensive fossil fuels. (This news release is from the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition.)

“Too many Chicagoans are having trouble paying their gas bills, and too many families are exposed to chemicals that cause cancer and asthma when burning gas in their kitchens,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson. “That is why we are taking the first step toward making how we heat our homes more affordable, and making indoor air safer for every Chicagoan.”

The ordinance sets an indoor emissions standard that would effectively eliminate the use of fossil fuels in newly constructed buildings in Chicago. The emissions standard would go into effect for building permits issued one year after the ordinance’s passage. More than 50 municipalities across the United States, including New York City and Los Angeles, have passed similar ordinances.

“We are pleased that business leaders, environmental justice activists, and consumer groups have come together to agree on the first step in a managed transition away from fossil fuels–stopping the expansion of the gas system,” said 49th Ward Ald. Maria Hadden, who noted that over a dozen alders will sponsor Mayor Johnson’s ordinance when it comes before Chicago City Council on Wednesday.

Requiring all-electric new construction was a key recommendation of the Chicago Building Decarbonization Working Group (CBDWG) report, released by the City in October 2022. This report was developed over months of gathering input from stakeholders, and recommends equitable solutions to address the nearly 70% of total citywide greenhouse gas emissions that come from buildings in Chicago.

Multiple studies show that electric buildings are cheaper to build and maintain. RMI’s analysis found that all electric households saved money in every scenario assessed.

“The majority of our clients – both occupiers and investors in real estate – have sustainability and net zero/emissions reduction goals. As the leader in commercial real estate services and sustainability, we do as well. Policies like the Clean Affordable Building Ordinance (CABO) are critical to support the transition to electrification, which allow these corporate net zero emissions goals to be realized – more efficiently and effectively.,” said Annalise Dum, Vice President of Sustainability at Chicago-headquartered real estate and investment management company JLL.

Gas appliances pollute indoor air quality with benzene, a chemical that causes cancer. Burning methane gas also produces dangerous pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulate matter that increase risks of childhood asthma. 1 in 5 Illinois cases of childhood asthma are attributable to cooking with gas, according to a recent peer-reviewed analysis.

CABO is supported by a coalition of more than 50 consumer, community, environmental, environmental justice, and faith organizations.

“We need a transition away from gas that is just and equitable, and we’re not going to get there without input from frontline communities like mine on Chicago’s far southside,” said Cheryl Johnson, Executive Director of People for Community Recovery. “This ordinance is a signal that the mayor’s office and the city council are willing to do right by every single Chicagoan, especially those of us living daily with the impacts of Chicago’s long history of environmental racism. It’s an important and promising first step towards a Chicago where all homes are safe, healthy and affordable, regardless of zip code.”

Electrification policies have enormous job-creation potential, which is especially important in communities disproportionately hurt by pollution and poverty. Building electrification and energy efficiency employs twice as many workers than fossil fuels in buildings already in Chicago. A similar policy in New York City has the potential to create a $20 billion market opportunity and more than 15,000 jobs.

“At a company like mine that does electrical work, the transition to all-electric buildings is an opportunity for growth and job creation. Companies like mine are ready to hire more electricians like me to do the work,” said Jamie Johnson, CEO and Founder at Chicago-based electrical contractor Verde Energy Experts.

CABO is expected to be assigned to a joint committee of Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards and Environmental Protection and Energy of the Chicago City Council and already has 13 sponsors.

For more information, please visit ilcleanjobs.org/cabo

Mayor Johnson’s Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance (CABO) is supported by a diverse group of stakeholders including –

City Council Co-Sponsors:

Alders LaSpata (1), Hall (6), Ramirez (12), Rodriguez (22), Sigcho Lopez (25), Fuentes (26), Cruz (30), Rodriguez Sanchez (33), Ramirez-Rosa (35), Vasquez (40), Knudsen (43), Martin (47), Manaa-Hoppenworth (48), Hadden (49)

Chicago Business Leaders:

Chris Dillion, President of Chicago-based real estate development company Campbell Coyle: 

“Several years ago, we made a bold decision to rethink our multi-family projects in Chicago. Embracing all-electric, we’ve now integrated this commitment across a growing number of projects. Our focus on decarbonization, coupled with the adoption of state-of-the-art technologies, is not just a choice; it’s a testament to our dedication to innovation and value creation—both environmental and economic—that we bring to our portfolio.”

Annalise Dum, Vice President of Sustainability, JLL (Chicago-headquartered real estate and investment management company): 

“The majority of our clients – both occupiers and investors in real estate – have sustainability and net zero/emissions reduction goals. As the leader in commercial real estate services and sustainability, we do as well. Policies like the Clean Affordable Building Ordinance (CABO) are critical to support the transition to electrification, which allow these corporate net zero emissions goals to be realized – more efficiently and effectively.”

Jamie Johnson, CEO and Founder, Verde Energy Experts (Chicago-based electrical contractor):

“The transition to all-electric buildings will create a lot of jobs in Chicago. Companies like mine are already installing heat pumps and seeing our clients reap the benefits. And we are ready to hire more electricians, HVAC technicians, and other trades to do more of this work throughout our city.”

John Gay, President, JAQ Corp. (Chicago-based architecture firm):

“As an architect with projects throughout Chicago, we see the value of building all electric traversing multiple market sectors and building typologies. We recognized our client’s utility bills were rising, and having an all-electric heating and cooling system was the solution. Not to mention, the way the technology works, our clients have more control of their electric systems which helps them more comfortable, have better air quality, and are able to lower their utility bills. It’s a no brainer for anyone building new construction today.”

Miguel Martinez, Regional Sales Manager, Mitsubishi Electric Trane (leading heat pump manufacturing company):

“Heat pumps are already operating throughout Chicago without incident, even in the most extreme weather we’ve had here in Chicago in recent years. Bottom line is this technology is feasible and constructing new buildings without fossil fuels is a logical step that benefits businesses and consumers alike.”

Local Organizations:

  • 350 Chicago
  • A Just Harvest
  • Action for the Climate Emergency
  • AIA Chicago
  • Blacks in Green
  • Center for Changing Lives
  • Center for Neighborhood Technology
  • Change Peoria
  • Chicago Energy Technology
  • Chicago Environmental Justice Network (CEJN)
  • Citizens Utility Board (CUB)
  • Climate Reality Chicago
  • Earthjustice
  • Edgewater Environmental Coalition
  • EJ Taskforce at the University of Chicago
  • Elevate
  • Environment Illinois
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Environmental Law and Policy Center
  • Environmentalist of Color (EOC)
  • Equitable Resilience & Sustainability LLC
  • Faith in Place
  • Garfield Park Community Council
  • Heartland Alliance
  • Housing Action Illinois
  • Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition
  • Illinois Environmental Council
  • Illinois Green Alliance
  • IL Green New Deal Coalition
  • Illinois PIRG
  • Institute for Market Transformation (IMT)
  • Jane Addams Senior Caucus
  • Kenwood Oakland Community Organization
  • League of Women Voters of Chicago
  • Legal Action Chicago
  • Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
  • Northwest Center
  • NRDC / NRDC Action Fund
  • ONE Northside
  • Open Communities
  • People for Community Recovery
  • PERRO Pilsen Environmental Rights Reform Org
  • Phoenix Sustainability Initiative
  • Plant Chicago
  • Respiratory Health Association
  • RMI
  • Sierra Club Illinois
  • Southeast Environmental Task Force
  • Student Environmental Alliance of Loyola Chicago
  • Sunrise Movement Chicago
  • The Peoples Lobby
  • Third Act Illinois
  • Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of IL
  • Urban Environmentalists Illinois
  • Vote Solar
  • Woodstock Institute