City targets energy efficiency in climate implementation

In the six months since the adoption of the Climate Action Plan, the city has worked across the board to lower emissions and increase sustainability.


Joseph Cress

Iowa City City Hall is seen on Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

Caleb McCullough, News Reporter

The city of Iowa City has made strides to make the city more environmentally friendly in the six months since the adoption of its Climate Action Plan, an initiative to aggressively combat climate change and reduce the city’s greenhouse gases by 80 percent by 2050.

City sustainability coordinator Brenda Nations outlined the city’s progress in a memo to Assistant City Manager Ashley Monroe on March 20. According to the memo, the actions that have been taken in the past six months in accordance with the plan address energy efficiency in municipal buildings, solar projects, homeowner-efficiency projects, and electric-vehicle infrastructure.

Nations said implementation of the plan has involved collaboration among all city departments.

One piece of the plan Nations said she was excited about was the hiring of an equity fellow. According to her memo, Iowa City was one of seven cities in the U.S. chosen recently to host an Equity and Diversity Fellow in summer 2019 by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network.

That person will work with city staff on sustainability efforts, Nations said, helping to assess the needs of underserved and underrepresented communities.

“I think that we will be able to find out some new and interesting things about how we can make sure that our climate action and implementation is equitable to all people across Iowa City,” she said.

Another project Nations highlighted is the city’s effort to prepare for electric vehicles. The city has applied for a grant to work with other communities in eastern Iowa on electric-vehicle infrastructure. This would allow more freedom of movement for electric vehicles in the surrounding area, Nations said. 

RELATED: City Council enacts climate-action plan 

“Say you decide to buy an electric vehicle and drive to Cedar Rapids,” Nations said. “They [would be] prepared so you can plug in while you’re … doing whatever you need to do.”

Community engagement is an important part of the plan’s implementation, Nations said.

“No matter what the city does with our own operations, that’s only 5 percent of our community-wide emissions — 95 percent has to do with the community, and so keeping the community involved is really important,” Nations said.

The city is also working on hiring an assistant facilities manager, city Facilities Manager Kumi Morris said.

The city has tracked energy use for years, Morris said, and the assistant facilities manager will use the data to target specific areas to reduce energy use.

“We’re working on writing that role,” Morris said. “We’re thinking about how that person can help us implement projects.”

University of Iowa student Eden Dewald, who serves on the city’s Climate Action and Adaptation Board, was part of the committee that helped put the report together, and now she works to implement the plan.

The board is split into working groups, she said, and she hopes to establish a working group focused on the UI.

“Hopefully, this university working group will be a way for students, most specifically, to engage with the plan,” Dewald said.

The board hopes to engage with student groups and classrooms to get student input on the plan, she said. The board plans a climate festival for the fall of 2020, and the members will work with a UI sustainable-events-planning class to reduce waste for the festival.

“We want to find more ways for students to connect with the plan,” Dewald said. “To know what’s going on in their community, to know the importance of the plan, and then also to give them hands-on experience.”