In tackling climate crisis, Iowa City develops plan to reduce carbon emissions by 2030

Council to discuss report during Tuesday meeting, with major focuses on business, transportation

According to recent research from a global collaboration of scientists, the Antarctic ice sheet has tripled its rate of
According to recent research from a global collaboration of scientists, the Antarctic ice sheet has tripled its rate of ice loss over the last 25 years. (Jill Schensul/The Record/TNS)

IOWA CITY — It’s one thing to declare a climate crisis. It’s another thing to have a plan to address it.

When the Iowa City Council declared a climate crisis in August and called for a 45 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050, council members also directed city staff to deliver a report within 100 days with recommendations to accelerate carbon emission reductions. That report was released last week and is scheduled to be discussed by the council Tuesday during its work session.

“It feels really good,” said Brenda Nations, the city’s sustainability coordinator, of finishing the report. “It feels good that we have a community that is asking for more. It feels good to make a plan to get there.”

Nations said a big take-away from looking at carbon emissions in the city and initiatives to reduce those emissions is that the goal is feasible.

“I think the challenging thing is we need a lot of people on board to do it,” she said.

In Iowa City, 82 percent of carbon emissions come from buildings. With 30,000 residences in the city, it’s going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach, Nations said.

“We need everybody to get on board to help make those residences, businesses and industries in town more energy-efficient,” she said.


The 39-page report contains 64 initiatives — some new, some building on existing efforts — to reduce carbon emissions. The initiatives are broken into five categories — buildings, transportation, waste, adaptation and sustainable lifestyle — as well as five types of initiatives — education, incentives, regulations, city policy and projects.

A majority of the initiatives fall within the buildings and transportation categories, which are “the two biggest areas where we can make our reductions,” Nations said.

Recommendations include launching a climate action incentive program funded through tax increment financing to reduce industrial energy consumption and partnering with MidAmerican Energy on a “utility-scale” solar installation. On the transportation front, the recommendations include promoting the use of public transportation through free or discounted fares and purchasing electric or fuel-efficient vehicles for the city fleet.

Nations said city staff will take feedback from the city council on the report and make changes if necessary. The city also will host public input meetings in the future.

“We have really strong support from the public,” she said. “The community really wants this to happen.”

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