Government

Iowa City rolls out road map to lower emissions

Council endorses aggressive plan to cut greenhouse gases

Iowa City sustainability director Brenda Nations stands Feb. 2. 2017, in front of the certified LEED Platinum Environmental Education Center at the East Side Recycling Center in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa City sustainability director Brenda Nations stands Feb. 2. 2017, in front of the certified LEED Platinum Environmental Education Center at the East Side Recycling Center in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Iowa City now has a road map for how it will go about its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over a 45-year span.

Last week, the Iowa City Council adopted a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, which outlines how the city and public can go about reducing their impacts on the environment.

The plan was created by a climate action steering committee, which was formed after the council resolved in December 2016 it would reduce the emissions.

The plan measures 2005 to 2050. But it also includes a benchmark of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

The goals include not only the municipality’s emissions but also those of residents and businesses within city limits.

“That’s a very aggressive amount for the long term,” Brenda Nations, the city’s sustainability coordinator, said in a presentation to the council. “That’s pretty substantial, especially when you think about population growth. So this takes into account that we’re a growing city.”

The largest portion of the city’s emissions, about 42 percent, comes from electricity. Another 26 percent comes from natural gas. Other emissions come from the University of Iowa’s coal plant, transportation fossil fuels and waste.

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To develop a plan for achieving the goals, organizers held two community meetings, conducted interviews and distributed surveys.

In all, the plan includes 35 action items under the categories of buildings, transportation, waste, adaptation and sustainable lifestyle.

The actions include increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, the use of mass transit and recycling from multifamily residences.

The plan says:

l 3 percent of buildings with natural gas can be transitioned to high efficiency electrical heat by 2025, and 25 percent by 2050.

l Residents can take a more comprehensive approach to home energy efficiency by looking at air sealing and insulation, programmable thermostats and swapping gas for electric appliances.

l The city should develop a readiness plan to determine what policy changes and infrastructure improvements should be made to encourage the use of electric vehicles.

As for measuring sustainable lifestyles, those results are more difficult, Nations said. But efforts such as encouraging a plant-rich diet and a green recognition program may help.

Nations said equity also was considered during the planning process. She said those who developed the plan didn’t want to disproportionately affect different Iowa City’s residents, such as those who are not as mobile or don’t speak English.

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“It is a really outstanding piece of work,” said council member John Thomas, adding the plan could connect to the city’s other efforts to improve public health and affordable housing. “I am interested in how this plays into questions of equity and into our affordable housing plan, especially as far as one of the key areas of focus will be on improving energy efficiency.”

Each of the suggested projects included in the plan likely will come to the City Council for approval, whether it be through the budgeting process or as a stand-alone project, said Assistant City Manager Ashley Monroe. The city has $180,000 the council could allocate toward projects right away, she said.

Despite the lofty goals, it wasn’t lost on city officials that Iowa City is but one small municipality in a big world.

“If it’s only small cities like Iowa City or even Portland or whatever, hit and miss cities across the country that decide this is important, that’s nowhere near enough. And so it’s important for all of us to remember that we really need to speak about these issues on a much larger and more global level,” member Susan Mims said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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