Chicago Climate Action Plan

CNT researchers conducted GHG emissions inventories for Chicago and the metro region for the years 2000 and 2005, assessing the impacts of the 8.4 million people who live in the region and the commerce conducted here. To understand the scale of action necessary to address GHG emissions in Chicago, CNT forecasted the city’s emissions through 2050 if no action is taken. Researchers also estimated its 1990 emissions to determine a baseline against which to set target reduction levels. CNT developed recommended mitigation strategies tailored specifically to Chicago, investigating opportunities, impacts, cost-effectiveness, feasibility, and successful local and national examples. As well as assessing the GHG reduction potential of reduction options, researchers looked at additional environmental, economic and social-equity benefits and burdens associated with the measures. CNT’s unique understanding of the hidden assets of cities helped identify a broad portfolio of emission reduction opportunities.


Four key findings of the research emerged:

1) Electricity, natural gas, and transportation are the main sources of Chicago’s global warming impact. Ninety-one percent of Chicago’s emissions come from these three sectors, so most emission reductions must target them.

2) If no action is taken, Chicago’s GHG emissions will continue to grow. Without mitigation, Chicago’s emissions of 34.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) – or 12 tons of CO2e per capita – in 2000 would be expected to grow 35 percent by 2050.

3) Chicago is part of the solution regionally and globally. Emissions are growing faster in the six-county region than in Chicago. Chicago’s efficient land use and transit assets allow households to own fewer autos and drive less than in other areas. Encouraging development in location-efficient areas and expanding transportation alternatives can reduce the impacts of growth on the region’s emissions. Moreover, as Chicago takes action it will serve as a model for cities and communities around the world.

4) There is no single cure, but many cures with many benefits. Taken together, the mitigation strategies CNT has identified would allow Chicago to contribute its share to climate stabilization. With early, continuous, and aggressive action, these strategies would reduce Chicago’s GHG emissions and bring additional environmental and economic benefits to residents and businesses.

Measures such as large-scale residential, commercial, and industrial building retrofit programs will not only reduce electricity and natural gas use and lower emissions, but will reduce utility costs, make homes and workplaces more comfortable and create green jobs. Increasing transit ridership and transportation alternatives through transit-oriented development, car-sharing, carpooling, walking, biking, and high-speed rail has the potential to not only reduce fuel use and cut GHG emissions, but to also improve air quality and public health, cut household costs, reduce road congestion, benefit businesses and make the city more livable.


Read about how CNT’s research was conducted.

Research Summary

Download a research summary of CNT’s report, “Chicago’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions: An Inventory, Forecast and Mitigation Analysis for Chicago and the Metropolitan Region.” (pdf).

Download the full report (pdf)


This research would not have been possible without the generous support of The Chicago Community Trust, The City of Chicago, Clinton Foundation, Global Philanthropy Partnership, the Grand Victoria Foundation, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, The Joyce Foundation, The Legacy Fund, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation and The Nathan Cummings Foundation.

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