OpEd Des Moines Register: Iowa Cities Can Drive Climate Action with Paris Accord in Flux

Iowa Cities can Drive Climate Action with Paris Accord in Flux
by Howard A. Learner

While President Trump steps back from climate reality by withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris Climate Accord, mayors in Iowa and across our country are stepping up to fill the void.

The recent North American Climate Summit brought together 50-plus mayors to sign the Chicago Climate Charter, committing to take initiatives to help meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s pollution reduction goals.

Now is the time for these municipal declarations of support to become real solutions to climate change problems. In short, take effective actions to reduce carbon pollution in ways that achieve environmental and economic development goals together.

Des Moines, Dubuque, Fairfield, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and other municipalities have pledged to seize opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Growing local solar energy, storage and energy efficiency creates jobs, saves money, attracts investment and avoids carbon pollution. Local energy production keeps energy dollars in our communities, instead of paying to import electricity generated by coal, gas and uranium. Clean electric vehicles and buses in municipal fleets reduce fuel and maintenance costs, and avoid pollution. Improving energy efficiency in city buildings saves taxpayer money, reduces pollution and lessens maintenance costs.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center is proud that many Iowa cities are saying they want to be part of global climate change solutions. We will work with cities to adopt high-value actions to reduce carbon pollution in ways that are tailored to Iowans and set strong goals. Here are three ways that Iowa cities can transform their public commitments into meaningful climate actions:

Achieve 100 percent renewable energy for municipal electricity needs by 2022: Iowa is a wind power champion, and solar energy and energy storage capacity are accelerating as prices fall while technologies improve. Iowa cities can achieve 100 percent renewable energy by using locally produced wind power and solar energy plus storage, purchasing clean renewable energy from third parties, and securing renewable energy credits from new wind and solar projects.

Clean up municipal fleets: All new purchases should be electric vehicles (except in special cases). Our nation’s transportation sector now produces more greenhouse gas pollution than the electric power sector, which is finally moving on a cleaner path. Iowa cities should buy electric vehicles (EV) or other zero-emission vehicles for non-emergency fleets. Cities can create demand to drive the EV market forward while reducing pollution. EVs have fewer moving parts and lower maintenance costs than internal combustion engine vehicles. EV operating costs are lower and more predictable. Using wind and solar energy to power EV charging stations accelerates a cleaner transportation system.

Rapidly improve municipal building energy efficiency: Smart energy efficiency investments produce cost savings and less pollution. Why wait? Many payback periods are short and the savings come fast. Replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs is a no-brainer cost-saver and pollution-reducer. Antiquated HVAC systems and old appliances waste money and allow more pollution. Smart energy efficiency products, technologies and controls are available. The time has never been better for cities to reduce their energy bills and cut pollution through energy efficiency improvements.

Iowa cities are leading by saying that they’ll step up with climate actions. The hard and most important work now comes next: transforming these declarations and sincere aspirations into real actions that reduce carbon pollution.

Cities can seize climate action opportunities by moving forward with these three specific initiatives for clean energy, clean transportation and energy efficiency that will produce significant pollution reduction results. Let’s work together to turn words into deeds, achieve economic and environmental benefits together, and help advance the Paris Climate Accord goals.

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