Government

Iowa City Council declares climate crisis

City announces plan to reduce carbon emissions

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)
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 — The easy part is over with.

Late Tuesday evening, the Iowa City Council unanimously approved a resolution declaring a climate crisis. The resolution calls for a 45 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050 in order to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Next comes the hard part. City staff has been tasked with delivering a report within 100 days on recommendations to accelerate carbon emission reductions in a city in which two entities — MidAmerican Energy and the University of Iowa — account for about 57 percent of all carbon emissions.

“We need to start by making these changes seem relatively easy and feasible for people who haven’t bought into this yet,” said council member Susan Mims. “If people see it as too hard and too inconvenient, they’re not going to do anything ... There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Tuesday’s declaration comes less than a year after the council adopted a Climate Action and Adoption Plan that set a goal of reducing carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 25 percent to 28 percent by 2025 and by 80 percent by 2050.

In October 2018, however, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report on the effects of global warming and the need to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas 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.

“Our action tonight should be understood as an action taken in concert with other cities, nations and people all over the world,” Mayor Jim Throgmorton said. “There is this clear recognition now that things are different. We need to play our part in alleviating the situation.”

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While the city cannot adopt an energy code more strict than the state’s energy code, Throgmorton said zoning and financial incentives could play a part. One area he asked city staff to look at is the use of natural gas within the city.

Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Taylor said it will take action beyond the City Council and city staff to effect meaningful change.

“It’s going to take the entire community and the businesses,” she said. “It’s doable. It’s going to take education, education and education.”

I.C. deer population

In other City Council news, councilors unanimously approved another resolution, but with far less enthusiasm. The council voted 7-0 to approve a long-term deer management plan that would include sharpshooting this winter followed by four years of bow hunting within the city.

In June, the council approved a plan that called for sharpshooting on two occasions this winter and a bow hunt, if necessary. However, during the July meeting of the Natural Resource Commission, that plan was denied.

“One thing that stuck out to me is that our mayor — several times — really did stress the value of our community and the desire not to do bow hunting,” council member Bruce Teague said at the NRC meeting.

Council members said Tuesday it was clear that a plan to manage the deer population would not be approved by the NRC if it did not include bow hunting.

“We just don’t really have any other option,” council member John Thomas said. “Clearly, the deer population is not a static number. It’s growing. This is where we are.”

I.C. transit system

The City Council also approved a resolution to enter contract with Nelson Nygaard Consulting Associates for a comprehensive study of the city’s transit system. The city will enter into a cost-sharing agreement with Coralville and the University of Iowa to study all three transit systems. Among aspects of the Iowa City Transit system that will be under consideration is expanding hours to include Sunday service.

“I really want to see Sunday transportation,” council member Mazahir Salih said. “There are many people who work on Sundays who I know can’t be transported. This is really great and exciting.”

• Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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