April 21, 2022

Plant trees for our city, region – Chicago Tribune

Chicago and other cities across the Great Lakes region experience the effects of climate change, from shoreline erosion and flooding to severe storms, drought, urban heat and poor air quality. The Great Lakes region is an emerging hub for nature-based projects that deliver environmental and social benefits, and Chicago is at the forefront of this trend.

Cities, companies and many other organizations are planting trees and preserving forests because trees store carbon, cool our neighborhoods and reduce climate-related risks for communities. While the immediate goal is to reduce the most severe effects of climate change, trees offer many other benefits: They improve water quality and groundwater storage, protect habitat and biodiversity, and increase recreational access. In Chicago and other cities, these benefits also include reduced stormwater flow and water treatment costs, energy savings, air quality benefits, and impacts on equity and health.

Two Chicago-based programs are working to expand this effort. The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers, a nonpartisan partnership of eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, developed the Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform. The platform aims to position the Great Lakes region as a global destination for investments that reduce emissions and create other benefits. Participants include public utilities, governmental agencies, startups and nonprofits, all of which are harnessing the power of sustainable finance to fund improvements, increase climate resilience and, in many cases, save or earn money.

The Chicago Region Trees Initiative, led by The Morton Arboretum, aims to make Chicagoland the greenest and most resilient region in North America. The initiative is the largest of its kind in the country, with organizations and agencies from across the seven-county metropolitan region working together. The initiative and City Forest Credits, a nonprofit that manages carbon and impact standards for metropolitan areas, have partnered to develop projects that protect trees while generating revenue from the sale of carbon credits for cities, forest preserve districts and nonprofits.

Now, the Chicago Region Trees Initiative and the Great Lakes Impact Investment Platform are teaming up to encourage projects that will plant trees and deliver benefits for people across the Great Lakes region. The rapidly growing carbon market is placing a premium on high-quality projects that deliver benefits.

Organizations and communities of all sizes are invited to join this effort.

— David Naftzger, executive director, Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers, and Lydia Scott, director, Chicago Region Trees Initiative, The Morton Arboretum