Government

Cedar Rapids delays climate plan to bolster it longterm

Officials and activists working on 'aggressive' goals

The 16th Avenue, 12th Avenue CRANDIC rail bridge and 8th Avenue bridges cross the Cedar River, as seen from the top of M
The 16th Avenue, 12th Avenue CRANDIC rail bridge and 8th Avenue bridges cross the Cedar River, as seen from the top of Mount Trashmore on Tuesday, May 14, 2014. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids officials have put off a vote committing to long-range, high-reaching goals to curb the local impact on climate change, but say the delay is only temporary and being done to strengthen efforts.

Environmental advocates — including weekly protests outside City Hall — have been pushing Cedar Rapids’ leaders to declare a climate emergency and adopt international goals to slow global warming, such as achieving net zero carbon emission by 2050.

A resolution setting goals was expected to be voted on at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, but was dropped from the agenda.

That’s a good thing, said Bridget Williams, co-leader of the local chapter of Sunrise Movement, a youth effort focused on climate change.

“It is definitely a good sign the city is waiting to pass a resolution,” Williams said. “We’ve been working with the city on a vision and setting strong goals for the future so this plan doesn’t get watered down in the process of achieving it.”

Williams met with city officials last week when they decided to delay it.

“I do have faith they are receptive to us and they are going to get this passed,” Williams said. “We aren’t going to forget about it ... and there is urgency to get something done, but if the city puts forward a resolution that commits to very little, it doesn’t do anything.”

Council members Tyler Olson and Ashley Vanorny met with Williams last week. Olson noted they wanted to strengthen the wording, and Vanorny said it was important they get the resolution right.

“The goals will drive the tactics the city staff will implement, so as we look at goals that won’t be achieved for 15-20 years, we want to make sure we are aggressive enough and that we as a city have a plan to meet them,” Olson said.

The resolution of goals is seen as the first step in a 12-to-18 month process of establishing a green house gas inventory and setting community engagement meetings, followed by establishing a climate action plan of “mitigation, adaptation and social justice.”

Social justice is a key component because the effects of climate change are seen to have the most impact on those most vulnerable.

“We absolutely want concrete goals and we want aggressive goals,” Olson said. “It is important the city does its work before we pass a resolution.”

Deputy City Manager Sandi Fowler said she anticipates the climate resolution would be ready for a council vote at its Feb. 25 meeting. At the same time, staff would make a presentation about the iGreenCR municipal sustainability plan, which is expected to be finalized Friday.

The municipal plan focuses inwardly on city operations — and does not require council approval — addressing emissions from land uses, transportation, streetlights, water consumption and waste generation, and is intended to set the tone for communitywide efforts.

Fowler noted the city’s EnvisionCR comprehensive plan adopted in 2015 calls for the creation of a municipal climate action plan followed by a communitywide climate action plan as evidence the city takes climate change seriously and is following through.

Iowa City last August declared a climate emergency, calling for a 45 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2010 levels by 2030 and for reaching net zero by 2050, giving itself 100 days to devise a plan. Iowa City included $1 million to emergency efforts to fight climate change in its proposed fiscal 2021 budget.

Olson and Fowler said budget numbers have not yet been discussed for Cedar Rapids.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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