April 2016 Meeting Notes

Iowa City Climate Advocates/Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Notes from the April 19, 2016 Meeting

(prepared by Peter Rolnick)

People at the meeting:

Linda Quinn (100 Grannies)

Mary Beth Versgrove (100 Grannies)

Fred Meyer (Backyard Abundance)j

Miriam Kashia (100 Grannies &…)

Jim Olson (Iowa United Nations Association)

Allison Roberts

Sarah Paulos (Iowa Interfaith Power & Light)

Cheryl Valenta (350.org)

Cheryl Miller

Eric Johnson

Jenna Hammerich

Deborah Dee (100 Grannies)

Brenda Nations (City of Iowa City Sustainability)

Jen Jordan (City of Iowa City Sustainability)

Connie Mutel

Jim Trepka (Sierra Club)

Del Holland (Environmental Advocates)

Mike Carberry (Sierra Club)

John Macatee

Peter Rolnick

(Maureen McCue with Physicians for Social Responsibility was there for a while, but had to leave early. Jeff Biggers with Ecopolis was not able to attend because of other commitments.)

  • Jim Olson gave a nice overview of the “Paris Agreement” (the outcome of the 21st meeting in December, 2015, of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was formed in 1992). Some of his main points included:

    • The agreement is not a treaty “imposed from above” (that was tried at the Kyoto meeting and was not successful). By not being a treaty, it does not need to be ratified by the U.S. Congress. Rather, each country pledges to reduce its carbon emissions by a certain amount. The agreement is not binding.

    • The U.S. agreed to reduce its emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2015.

    • The fact that China was part of the agreement was a big help in making it a success.

    • The long-term objective is to keep the mean world temperature increase since preindustrial times to “well below 2°C” and to try to limit it to 1.5°C.

    • There will be a $100 billion fund (the Green Climate Fund) for helping poorer countries through the upcoming transitions through 2020.

    • The agreement acknowledges that small island nations have suffered losses and damage, but no one may be held responsible.

    • The agreement gives voice to “non-state” actors.

    • “Old alliances” (for example rich nations versus poor nations) that were in place in previous negotiations have broken down.

    • Jim recommended that we advocate for support of the Clean Power Plan, and for contributing to the Green Climate Fund.

  • A representative from each of the organizations present gave a brief overview of what their organization is about and what its members do:

    • Iowa City Climate Advocates (Peter): As the Iowa City chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, they lobby for the implementation of a revenue-neutral fee on carbon as soon as possible. This involves meeting with and writing to our members of the House and Senate, writing letters to and op-eds for the local newspapers, and doing outreach. In addition, they engage in local activities that compliment what the other organizations represented tonight are doing. They meet once a month, usually the third Wednesday of the month (next meeting time and place is at the end of these notes).

    • Environmental Advocates (Del): Help support environmental causes via seed money, mentoring, candidates’ forums. They do not have regular meetings, they just have meetings when needed.

    • Sierra Club (Mike): Work on all environmental issues. In Iowa they have focused on improving water quality, preventing sprawl and stopping the Bakken pipeline, among other things. They do not have regular meetings, but they put on quarterly events such as canoe trips and issues forums.

    • 100 Grannies for a Livable World (Mary Beth & Linda): Women of mature age concerned about the environment and community rights. They do education, lectures, a film series, tabling, training (for example, a direct action training coming up in Des Moines regarding the fight to stop the Bakken pipeline). Their motto: Educate, Advocate, Agitate.

    • Interfaith Power & Light (Sarah): Education and training for advocacy in support of environmental sustainability for and through faith-based organizations. Interested in forming a local chapter consisting of a number of local faith organizations. Zion Lutheran is already active.

    • City of Iowa City (Brenda-Sustainability Coordinator): Many things going on: Compact of Mayors (a non-binding international agreement involving doing a a greenhouse gas inventory, setting a climate reduction target and an action plan). There is a need to focus on the sources of energy we use. According to the most recent STAR rating (see http://www.starcommunities.org/rating-system/ for more info about this way of rating communities for sustainability), out of seven goal areas, Iowa City scored lowest in the climate part.

    • City of Iowa City (Jen-Recycling Coordinator): Works with the landfill. In addition to the challenges of what to do with what comes into the landfill, an important but different challenge is to decrease what comes in in the first place. Jen also works with Eco Iowa City, “an initiative to improve environmental sustainability in Johnson County, Kalona and Riverside. ECO Iowa City provides events, programs, hands-on workshops, films, book recommendations and discussions, incentives and resources…and lots of opportunities (in person and online!) for fun and community-building.

    • Backyard Abundance (Fred): In an effort to help the members of the community shrink their environmental footprint, they help homeowners (and others?) with advice about how to landscape in a way that minimizes erosion and flooding, paying attention not only to people’s land and homes, but also their souls.

    • 350.org (Cheryl Valenta): An international organization devoted to addressing the problems of climate change. Recently, for example, they have been involved in “bird dogging” (that is, making sure that, at public events involved candidates running for office, someone is present to ask questions specifically about climate change), and in an effort (called Exxon Knew) to hold Exxon accountable for keeping secret research that revealed, early on, the effects of their products on the climate. (Iowa’s attorney general has already agreed to join those from other states in addressing this issue as a group).

    • Johnson County Supervisors (Mike): Working on many things having to do with sustainability, including trying to lower the barriers to growing food in the county.

    • Iowa Wind Energy Association (Mike): They are working, for example, on a “3rd Party Power Purchase Agreement”.

  • We talked about the need for a central listing of climate/environmental organizations in Johnson County. There is currently a (not-up-to-date) listing, along with some other listings, on the ICCA website at http://iowa-city-climate-advocates.org/links-and-resources/. In the next few weeks, Peter will clean-up and update that site.

  • We talked about the Iowa City City Council’s efforts at sustainability, in particular:

      • Set a substantive and achievable goal for reducing city-wide carbon emissions by 2030, and create an ad-hoc climate change task force, potentially under an umbrella STAR Communities committee, [and] … devise a cost-effective strategy for achieving the goal”,

      • Set aside $100,000 to “Undertake a project in FY 2017 that achieves a significant measurable carbon emission reduction.”

    Do we want to form an ad hoc group to start looking into these issues, to give input to the City when they reach that point? Cheryl Miller said she will start doing research into what other City’s have done in this area. Anyone interested in helping with that effort, or with these City Council priorities in general, please contact Peter (prolnick@truman.edu).

  • We discussed the challenge of working with organized labor, which has the same goals is most of us in the long run, but in certain areas (their support for pipeline construction, for example) are at odds with what some of us are trying to accomplish. Peter has made some outreach to local labor leaders, and Mike has had some experience in attempting to work with labor.

  • We discussed efforts in Iowa to address agriculture’s effect on the climate, in particular “big ag”, the growing of corn and soybeans on a massive scale in ways that worsen, rather than improve the situation. The idea of carbon farming was brought up (from The Carbon Cycle Institute: Carbon Farming involves implementing practices that are known to improve the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted to plant material and/or soil organic matter”). A number of groups were mentioned that focus on agriculture and climate, or areas related to that:

  • On a final note, I’ll just mention that, at the time of our meeting, I had just finished reading Connie Mutel’s book A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland, and I recommend it. Lots of good information and insight–realistic while providing reason for hope!

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