Iowa City is turning the threats posed by global climate change into an opportunity. With the adoption of the Iowa City Climate Action and Adaption Plan, the City will build an economy and community to sustain its residents and the environment long into the future. So says Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton in the Plan, which aims to reduce the City’s greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.
To achieve this goal, Elevate Energy, in partnership with the City of Iowa City, Inova Energy Group, and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, helped Iowa City establish a series of 35 actions to reduce emissions in categories including buildings, transportation, waste, sustainable lifestyle, and an adaptation category to address the already changing climate. The emissions goals were adopted after national and international organizations concluded that an 80 percent emissions reduction by 2050 is necessary to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. In order to reach these goals, it is vitally important that communities chart their own path forward with local plans customized to address their people, building stock, transportation networks, and other elements that make them unique.
The adoption of Iowa City’s Plan in September 2018 represents a movement that we’re seeing in other municipalities and cities across the U.S. and is another positive example of how cities are stepping up to do their part to combat climate change. “The tide is changing in many communities,” said Lindy Wordlaw, Senior Manager of Public Sector Programs at Elevate Energy. “Today, it’s less about having to convince people that climate change is happening and more about understanding how and where we use energy to enact the right actions and programs that result in the greatest possible impact.”
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Lindy. “Climate planning doesn’t happen by itself, it’s looking comprehensively at a City and knowing your baseline to most effectively meet reduction goals.”
For other municipalities (as well as counties, regions, and states) interested in taking steps to reduce emissions, the best place to start is understanding how and where your emissions originate—most likely in energy consumption and transportation. Establishing this baseline and using metrics to guide a strategy also helps cities track progress toward goals.
“Start with an emissions profile to understand what your biggest impact is. For example, a city-wide recycling program is good, but it might have a relatively small impact on your community’s emissions,” said Lindy. “Achieving emissions goals will absolutely require pushing forward with strategies that have highest impacts on emissions.”
The adoption of Iowa City’s Plan was a true community effort. The City formed a steering committee, comprised of a diverse mix of residents and key stakeholders that will continue to manage ongoing implementation of the Plan. As part of the process, the City also hosted two community meetings to give residents a voice in the Plan’s recommendations.
Notably, Iowa City’s Plan includes clear recommendations to alleviate the inequities of climate change that will adversely affect some populations, such as the ability for cost-burdened households to respond quickly to emergency events like floods.
At Elevate Energy, we were honored to help Iowa City develop its Climate Action and Adaptation Plan and we look forward to the Plan’s implementation through new partnership building, policy changes, education and awareness, lifestyle changes, and new programs.
Please join us in congratulating Iowa City for their leadership on climate action. Are you interested in learning more about what your community can do? Since 2004, Elevate Energy has integrated sustainability and energy planning with traditional planning processes with over 200 municipalities, several counties, regional areas and two states. Learn more about our energy planning and get in touch with us at 773-269-4037 or info@ElevateNP.org.