Letter to the editor: The Iowa City climate plan is a joke — so revamp it now

Climate change was a common topic during Sen. Joni Ernst’s town hall at Coe College. Friday, March 17, 2017. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

By Jeff Biggers

Iowa City’s recycling and composting program, thanks to environmental wizard Jennifer Jordan, the city’s amazing resource management superintendent, has been making solid gains in dealing with CO2 and methane emissions.

Iowa City, in fact, is endowed with so many sustainability leaders and climate change experts — like architect and energy efficiency guru Martha Norbeck, who has built carbon neutral homes, biodiversity Prof. Liz Maas at Kirkwood, local farm and food advocates like Michelle Kenyon, Ayman Sharif, Shanti Sellz and hundreds others, and nationally recognized solar energy companies like Tim Dwight and Moxie Solar. The 100 Grannies are chock-full of ideas. The list of local experts is endless.

So, why is IC’s Climate Action Plan such a joke — called a “community failure” by its own committee members — if progressive Iowa City cares about leading on climate action?

When the IPCC calls for all cities to cut CO2 emissions by 45 percent within a decade — and reach zero emissions by 2050 — just to survive, why does IC’s lackluster plan rely 95 percent on MidAmerican and the U of Iowa to do all of the heavy lifting, and sets low benchmarks that are far behind cities like Dubuque?

Short answer: No leadership. No sense of urgency. No chutzpah. Come on, Hawkeyes.

The Iowa City council desperately needs to do three things: 1) Ask the town’s climate experts like Norbeck and Maas to revamp the Climate Action Plan to met IPCC standards; 2) Require the city manager and staff to do climate change trainings; and 3) Hire Cedar Rapids sustainability coordinator Eric Holthaus, the former wunderkind of recycling at the U of Iowa, to lead the city plan with zero waste expert Jennifer Jordan.

No more excuses, as the IC student climate strikers say.

The city council in the little burg of New York City passed a climate action plan last week, which sets caps on carbon emissions for buildings, as part of an overall requirement to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2030. Among a host of ordinances, incentives and initiatives, failure to carry out these plans will result in fines.

The New York City Council is serious about the urgency of climate change. And they passed an ambitious Climate Mobilization Act last week, including a transportation clean overall, mandatory green roofs and renewable energy, that steps up to the challenge issued by the IPCC group of global scientists last fall to avert impending climate chaos.

New York City is not alone — hundreds of cities have committed to 100 renewable energy and strict energy efficiency targets, massive clean transportation and infrastructure investments, ambitious local food and zero waste ordinances, huge tree planting and soil carbon sequestration initiatives, and green enterprise and green job incubators to jump-start new innovations.

It’s time for Iowa City to act on climate change, as if our future depends on it. Because it does.

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