Government

Officials: Iowa's push toward renewable energy not likely to change with Paris Climate Accord decision

Some worry about impact of backing out of agreement

A wind turbine provides much of the power for the operation at the farm of Phil Short in rural Winthrop, Iowa, on Monday, March 7, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A wind turbine provides much of the power for the operation at the farm of Phil Short in rural Winthrop, Iowa, on Monday, March 7, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

How backing out of the Paris Climate Accord would impact Iowa depends on who you ask.

President Donald Trump intends to follow through on a campaign pledge to pull the United States out of the Paris agreement— a global pact to fight climate change— a source briefed on the decision told Reuters. The move promises to deepen a rift with U.S. allies and is garnering mixed reactions domestically.

Some Iowa environmental leaders and lawmakers believe the state is going to continue on a path toward renewable energy regardless of the United State’s involvement in the agreement, while others worry that bailing on the deal would have a negative impact that could harm the state’s agriculture industry.

“The implication of leaving the Paris Climate Accord is that we won’t satisfactorily reduce greenhouse gases and that has implications in terms of greater storms ... an increase in insects, an increase in disease ... carried by insects,” said Pam Mackey-Taylor, chairwoman of the Conservation Committee for Iowa’s chapter of the Sierra Club. “It has changes in terms of ... how well we can raise crops in Iowa.”

But Joshua Mandelbaum, a staff attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Des Moines, said Iowa is on a path toward environmental autonomy that won’t be changed by backing out of the climate accord.

“It won’t change the renewable energy of the state,” he said. “While you want to see our country cooperate with global allies on climate solutions and see America lead on problems like this, Iowa’s ability to lead on these issues, that doesn’t change.”

Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council, a private, nonprofit coalition, said it’s important to acknowledge Iowa’s leadership regarding energy.

“We’re a national leader in that, Democrats and Republicans alike,” he said.

Rosenberg said he believes because of what he feels is widespread support regarding renewable energy in terms of wind and solar, that progress in that arena will continue to accelerate regardless of the Paris Accord decision.

Mackey-Taylor agreed.

“We’ve done a good job of getting wind power and solar power across the state and it looks like we’ll continue to do that, whether we have the Paris Climate Accord or not.”

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said the climate accord wasn’t a good deal for America.

“The Paris Climate Agreement, as negotiated for the United States by then-President Obama without congressional consultation, resulted in no enforceable pledge from nations to limit their emissions, and the unequal terms put the U.S. economy at a significant disadvantage while letting large economies like China’s and India’s off the hook,” Grassley said in an emailed statement. “Meanwhile, I’ve been and will continue to be a strong supporter of policies supporting cleaner, domestic energy in the U.S. Senate. These laws have helped the nation make progress in this area long before the Paris talks.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack disagrees.

“By pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, the president has once again signaled a lack of commitment to addressing climate change,” Loebsack said in an email statement. “I have long said that the science is proven. It’s not just enough to believe in climate change, but we must acknowledge it is happening.”

Loebsack said he plans to continue to promote clean climate practices.

“Investments in homegrown biofuels create new jobs in our state, put us on a path toward energy independence, enhance our national security and bring increased economic development to Iowa’s rural areas,” Loebsack said.

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, through her office, said she’s waiting on an official announcement from Trump before commenting.

Mackey-Taylor said she doesn’t believe it would be a wise business decision to leave the climate accord.

“The thing I think is interesting is that businesses like certainty and when most of the rest of the world is supporting the Paris Climate Accord and we’re not, we may find that our businesses have trouble internationally competing against companies that are supporting greenhouse gas reductions and are from countries that do support the climate accord,” she said.

“I believe that there are plenty of jobs to be made by transitioning to renewable energy and our air will be healthier and it will be less polluted. We can remain competitive globally if we continue with the climate accord.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8538; elianna.novitch@thegazette.com

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