To integrate community feedback into the Climate Action Plan, the City of Ames hosted a public town hall to further engagement on the project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The City is taking part in a science-based approach to the design of the action plan. The information gathered from the engagement process, as well as data, determine the targets of the plan for Ames.
The Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG) was hired by the city to facilitate in making a plan. Representatives from the sustainability planning firm highlighted goals from the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The Climate Action Plan is an evidence-based path towards sustainability considering the communities current context to lower greenhouse gas impacts. The City also implemented a Supplemental Input Committee composed of Ames residents, including students.
During the meeting Monday, participants were able to ask questions and take part in a survey regarding Ames’ current initiatives, and possible goals to reduce. A large portion of the Climate Action Plan is engagement, and the town hall was one of many steps to incorporate public opinion into the planning process.
Merry Rankin serves as the Iowa State University director of sustainability and the City of Ames sustainability coordinator.
She said in the past people noted the Supplemental Input Committee needed greater representation from the Iowa State community. In addition to any of the applicants already processed, there are designated seats for three Iowa State Students. Iowa State University appoints two representatives and the Iowa State Student Government President appoints one.
In addition to considering public opinion, the Sustainability Solutions Group used Des Moines, Iowa as an example of a city with a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goal by 2050 and an emission reduction goal of 45 percent by 2030.
After the Sustainability Solutions Group presented some of their information, they allowed for audience participation in a question and answer survey. One question asked was if there were no constraints what would the Ames community like to see the action plan accomplish.
Some common ideas included 100 percent solar, 100 percent clean energy by 2030, terminating the use of fossil fuels. The group also presented a business as usual (BAU) scenario result. Participants were also allowed to ask questions of the organization as well as to city officials. Mayor John Haila and Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen attended the meeting as well.
Climate Reality Campus Corp Action Committee Chair Hector Arbuckle attended the meeting and is a senior majoring in biology at Iowa State. Because the targets have yet to be determined for the plan, Arbuckle said it is up to the Ames community to ensure their voices are heard.
“I am really hopeful the city will adopt a science-based goal that keep us within 1.5 degrees of warming,” Arbuckle said. “Because that is essential for a safe and habitable environment for us all.”
Arbuckle would like to see the city rule on a goal of 100 percent clean energy and 100 percent carbon neutrality by 2030, and if not by 2030 then as soon as possible.
The group also presented a business as usual (BAU) scenario result. Sustainability Solution Group consultant Brittany Maclean said it is easier for local governments to implement environmental changes tailored to the community to grant a more just transition.
The business as usual result considers data from the city as well as policies and plans underway to project what Ames’s emission trajectory would look like without climate action planning.
“I am really thankful they are creating this plan and I urge them to really consider the future of young people in Ames and we really need 1.5 Celsius,” Arbuckle said. “As young people, we want to live in a community that is promoting sustainability and that allows us to live sustainable lifestyles.”
Maclean said the battle over the economy and environment isn’t necessarily the current context anymore. Now converting to renewable energy and practices can stimulate economic growth.
Cheyenne Minniss is a senior in mechanical engineering and the president of Climate Reality Campus Corps, said she applauds the city in performing a renewables potential report and study.
Maclean said there are barriers to municipal actions such as legislative authority, financing, capacity, culture and behavior and other unknown factors. The pandemic is an example of a factor which prolonged the original timeline of the Ames Climate Action Plan yet the process is underway.
“It is cool to see how much input we actually have as people,” Minniss said, “I think people really forget that or think our decision makers are difficult to reach; they want your comments. They want your input.”
Series three of the Climate Action Plan will take place on Nov. 16.
The Ames City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday for the biweekly meeting. They will also have a joint session with Iowa State Student Government on Wednesday. All of the City of Ames meetings can be accessed from the AmesTelevison Youtube page.