business as usual

Ames City council pictured in a previous city council meeting.

The Ames City Council heard presentations from Sustainable Solutions Group with input from the Climate Action Planning team on community engagement, business-as-usual and target setting alternatives during the workshop on the Climate Action Program held Tuesday night. 

The Council was first presented with information on community engagement by Brittany MacLean, a senior consultant and lead analyst with SSG. She first discussed the interactive website, community visioning exercise, Supplemental Input Committee and town hall as the engagement methods used to date. 

MacLean then discussed the community input given within the community visioning exercise. She covered the questions asked and responses given by community members during this exercise before discussing upcoming engagement strategies. These upcoming strategies include a community survey, ongoing website updates and outreach support from the Supplemental Input Committee.

The Supplemental Input Committee and SSG will meet Dec. 1 to discuss the input they have received from the Ames community. The community survey will remain open until Dec. 9, specifically to allow time for Iowa State students to respond following their return to Ames after Thanksgiving Break. 

Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin asked how they were thinking about community engagement on this project with respect to being representative of the Ames community. MacLean said that they would be doing more work and more outreach during the next steps of the project to try to reach many populations within the community. She also added that demographic information had been collected along with the responses so that they have a better understanding of which populations of the community have been reached through their outreach efforts. 

Ward 1 Rep. Gloria Betcher asked if the demographic information would include data on low- and moderate-income individuals and families to determine if those populations have been reached by their community engagement efforts. Betcher added that the Ames City Council is particularly concerned about avoiding unintended consequences against low- and moderate-income populations with this project, and hearing from them now may assist in preventing these consequences in the future. 

MacLean said that the demographic information collected does include income information, and if the data shows that a certain population has not been adequately reached, there is more work to do on the outreach side by checking and altering the distribution strategies. 

Next, the Council heard the business-as-usual presentation from Eric Frenette, the lead modeler on the Climate Action Plan project from SSG. This presentation focused on describing the most likely outcome for the City of Ames if no major actions against climate change were taken, projecting from 2018 to 2050. 

Frenette discussed the projected greenhouse gas emissions per sector, total emissions by fuel and total energy use by sector. These projections also factored in future projects already known by the Council, including the growth in electric vehicles. 

City of Ames’ Sustainability Coordinator Merry Rankin said that based on the information known at this time, these projections seem to be accurate. 

Then the Council heard the target setting alternatives again by MacLean that SSG created. Four alternatives were presented to the Council in the overview, each allowing for improved climate action on behalf of the city with regard to science. 

MacLean began by discussing the net-zero by 2050 commitments, which are becoming the standard around the world. This would mean that by 2050, carbon neutrality is reached, and no more carbon is entering the atmosphere than is exiting the atmosphere.

First, MacLean presented the Science-based Target (general), which would create a 45 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the 2005 levels by 2030 and become net-zero by 2050. This is considered the most conservative of the four target alternatives presented by SSG. 

Second, the Aligned with Federal Target was presented, which would create a 50-52 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the 2005 levels by 2030 and become net-zero by 2050. It is in line with the federal emissions reduction target announced in April 2021. It is also based on the United States’ Nationally Determined Contribution in line with Article Four of the Paris Agreement.

Third, the Science-based Target (carbon budget and equity) would create an 83 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the 2005 levels by 2030 and become net-zero by 2050. This target is in line with the Science-Based Targets Network and the C40 Climate Leadership recommendations. MacLean said that it is the most aggressive of the proposed targets from SSG. 

Fourth and finally, the Evidence-based Target was presented, which has an unknown reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the 2005 levels by 2030 but would be net-zero by 2050. The target intends to be built from the bottom up, taking into account local factors. Because it is more closely tailored to the local community, it may not align with the Paris Agreement or be science-aligned. 

The City Council was not tasked with making a decision on which target to align the Ames Climate Action Plan with during this meeting. The Council will do this at a later, undetermined date.  

SSG also included information about surrounding Iowa cities’ climate plans, including Des Moines, which aims to be net-zero by 2035, and Iowa City, which will approach net-zero by 2050.

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