Mapping City Climate Action

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In 2017, President Trump removed the US from the Paris Climate Agreement. In response, many local jurisdictions who often deal with the brunt of the weather related impacts of climate change stood up and declared that they were going to “stay in” the agreement.

1000 Friends of Iowa agrees and believes that we can have the greatest impact working locally for solutions that can add up to real impacts.

Analyses done by ARUP for the C40 Initiative concluded that cities are essential actors in reducing emissions and that the 758 US cities with populations of 50,000 or more can deliver about on third of the US Paris commitment. Cities can deliver emission reductions that are additive to those of nations and states, ARUP concludes, because they control land use, transportation systems, and the attributes of buildings.

They further conclude that there is a deadline. They conclude that cities have until 2020 to get on a pathway to achieving future deep emission reductions. In other words, city action is urgent but harder to get our hands around because it requires hundreds of individual policy and programmatic decisions. To succeed, we must be able to achieve change at scale. We need to work together to figure out how to do that.

About 150 of the 758 cities are in the Midwest. We already know that in general, the core city in each of the largest metro areas is taking some action – often with the help of nonprofits and foundations, such as, Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, Cleveland. The ARUP analysis tells us that this is not enough.

We know that we need more of the communities across Iowa and the Midwest to take action. While we work with local communities in Iowa, we wanted to do analysis by identifying the status of clean energy, climate work, and sustainability efforts in these cities and to develop a plan of action for spurring all to action.

Partnering with organizations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, 1000 Friends of Iowa just completed a comprehensive mapping project looking at whether or not cities with a population of 40,000 or more were currently addressing these issues and what they were doing if they were. In Iowa, there are 13 cities that met the criteria. Eleven of those cities participated in the mapping project.

Of the participating cities, five of them have completed greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventories and four have set GHG reduction goals. Three cities have established an energy plan, climate action plan or resiliency plan. Two other cities are in progress of developing a plan. Five Iowa Cities have energy efficiency goals and Nine of the eleven cities that responded are participating in a sustainability program.

From anecdotal data gathered, the two most important factors that seem to drive a cities success in their efforts to address climate change and become more sustainable were: 1. a supportive city council and Mayor and 2. a staff person who acted as the sustainability coordinator or director for the city. Click here to view an interactive map with the results and Click here to see the raw data results.