Chicago will represent the U.S. as World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) 2014 Earth Hour Capital, the conclusion of a year-long challenge for cities that are preparing for increasingly extreme weather and promoting renewable energy. Chicago was selected from 60 US entrants by an international jury, due to the city’s impressive commitment and demonstrable progress toward fighting climate change. Chicago will also receive $30,000 to kick-start a solar purchase program for residents.
“Chicago has shown the country that even major cities can kick the coal habit, and it continues to raise the bar for what local governments can do to fight against climate change,” said Keya Chatterjee, director of renewable energy and footprint outreach at WWF. “The city’s efforts to make renewable energy accessible, like the one-day turn-around for rooftop solar project permits, along with its work to strengthen the public transportation system make it a ‘first city’ in climate-smart policy.”
“Building on a legacy of innovation and action, I am proud that Chicago and its residents are being recognized for their national leadership in sustainability and environmental issues,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Fostering economic opportunity and job creation ensures Chicago’s long-term livability and competitiveness. We all have a stake in our climate and the world we will leave for future generations.”
As Earth Hour Capital, Chicago will join other cities across the world on March 29 at 8:30 PM (local time) to raise awareness about the impact humans have on the planet. The city will host an Earth Hour celebration event as notable landmarks, including the Willis Tower, go dark for the hour. The city will encourage residents to “go beyond the hour” by developing a program to help homeowners install solar panels as part of a new city-wide program, funded in part by the Earth Hour City Challenge award.
Chicago is one of three cities to win Earth Hour City Challenge grants. The other two recipients are Santa Cruz County and Albany/El Cerrito, Calif., both of which are working toward community choice aggregation programs to provide renewable electricity to all of their residents.