Iowa City could declare 'climate crisis'

Vote would hasten goals for lower carbon emissions

Students at South East Junior High demonstrate March 15, along with thousands of others globally, to demand action again
Students at South East Junior High demonstrate March 15, along with thousands of others globally, to demand action against climate change. (Photo submitted by Massimo Paciotto-Biggers)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Council will vote next week whether to join cities around the globe in declaring a “climate crisis.”

The council is scheduled to vote on a resolution during its meeting Tuesday that would declare a climate crisis and direct city staff to deliver a report within 100 days with recommendations on ways to accelerate carbon emission reductions within the city.

“This is really crucial for us,” Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton said Thursday. “But only if you think in terms of us acting in concert with people all over the world. Our national leadership is not going to do it, so we need to do what we can within our legal authority and that’s what we intend to do.”

Last September, the council adopted a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan that set a goal of reducing carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 25-28 percent by 2025 and by 80 percent by 2050.

However, the following month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report on the impacts of global warming and the need to reduce worldwide greenhouse emissions before 2030 to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That report found that to reach that goal, emissions would need to drop 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

Spurred by the report, as well as youth climate strikers in Iowa City and around the world, city leaders opted to rethink carbon emission reductions within the city, Throgmorton said.

“We decided to look more carefully at the situation and decided we need to accelerate our actions and focus on what we can control and influence,” he said.


In Iowa City, about 57 percent of carbon emissions come from MidAmerican Energy and the University of Iowa, Throgmorton said. Those two entities are outside of the city’s influence.

Municipalities also cannot adopt an energy code that is more strict than the state’s energy code, Throgmorton said.

However, Throgmorton said there are areas in which the city can have an impact, such as through zoning and financial incentives.

“I want (city staff) to think carefully about what we can actually do instead of saying, ‘Well, there’s nothing we can do,’” he said.

The climate crisis resolution also calls for the city to coordinate with other municipalities, energy utilities, educational institutions and other governmental entities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The City Council will schedule a presentation and offer an opportunity for public comment on the proposed carbon emission strategies, the resolution states.

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