November 2016 Meeting Notes

Iowa City Climate Advocates (ICCA)/Iowa City Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL)

Meeting Minutes (prepared by Peter Rolnick)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

People present: Eric Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Becca Mattson, Linda Quinn, Terri Macey, John Christenson, Chris Bergan, Emily Mueller, Perry Lenz, Kai Hedstrom, John Macatee, Marc Franke (via Skype!), Jamie McCoy and Peter Rolnick (and Jim Trepka showed up briefly after the Sierra Club meeting upstairs was over).

  • We introduced ourselves to each other. Many of us have been involved in various actions related to climate change, including participating in demonstrations against construction of the Bakken Pipeline, and demonstrations in support of nuclear power as part of the path to sustainable energy.
    • I should mention that, as a chapter of CCL, ICCA is neither for nor against nuclear power, neither for nor against any pipelines. We are a diverse organization, but the one thing we agree on is the need for a revenue-neutral fee on carbon, increasing yearly, and started as soon as possible. Once that is accomplished (I’m assuming it will be accomplished!) the task of switching over to sustainable, dependable energy will not be simple and there are a variety of approaches to how to best do that.
    • As part of the discussion, Chris pointed out the challenges of the electrical grid–for example, if you use mostly solar, what happens during the nighttime? He suggested a website where you can watch a grid for the province of Ontario in real time–see how much of what kind of power is being used over the last hour–at http://live.gridwatch.ca/. (I just now checked it out–pretty cool!)
  • CCL has a monthly call (with video) for all chapters in which an expert talks about some aspect of climate change, and also answers questions from people watching/listening in on the call. The calls are on the second Saturday of each month but we have been meeting on Wednesday evenings, so we listened to a rebroadcast of the most recent call, featuring evangelical climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe. The executive director of CCL, Mark Reynolds, also spoke about the mixed feelings people were having following the surprising results of the recent election, and encouraged us to continue working toward passing Carbon Fee & Dividend (CCL’s proposal for a revenue-neutral fee on carbon) by the end of 2017. We learned that the number of CCL volunteers has increased dramatically since the election–Democrat or Republican, people are concerned about climate change! We must try to make good use of this momentum.
    • If you want to watch the monthly call, or any previous calls, and you are able to log into CCL-Community, go to http://citizensclimatelobby.org/monthly-international-conference-calls/ (otherwise go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_Q7SxxkYi8&feature=youtu.be).
    • We briefly discussed the possiblity of moving our monthly meetings from the third Wednesday evening of the month to the second Saturday morning (late morning), so that we could watch the monthly call live. If you have an opinion about this, please let me (mailto:prolnick@truman.edu) or Eric (mailto:eric.d.johnson@gmail.com) know! (I say this with trepidation. Asking a bunch of people when the best meeting time is is like asking a bunch of cats whether they should all be in the kitchen, outside, in the living room, or in the bedroom.)
    • If you want to know more about Katherine Hayhoe, she is producing a series of short and wonderful videos called Global Weirding. Each one is only 6 minutes long. You can watch a video (or subscribe to the videos–a new one comes out every second Wednesday) at Global Weirding. I suggest you go there right now–they are short, terrific and amusing, and you can learn a lot from them!
    • Along with the monthly call, CCL suggests a Laser Talk to practice. (A Laser Talk is a succinct summary of important issues having to do with climate change and Carbon Fee & Dividend, for use in practicing talking to people about these issues. I have included this month’s Laser Talk at the end of these notes.)
  • Eric gave an update about the 5k Run/Walk to help victims of climate change, and to raise awareness of climate change, which will be on Earth Day (April 22, 2017). Mark your calendars!
  • Kai arrived at our meeting fresh off the plane from DC, and gave us an update on the CCL meetings he attended, and on his meetings with Congressmen Young and Loebsack, and with staffers for Congressman Blum and Senator Ernst. (He said the meeting with the Ernst staffers was longest and the most in-depth–they knew a lot about the issues!) He will prepare some more detailed notes on his experience and I will share them with everyone when completed. Kai thanked all the people who contributed money so he could represent us on this trip.
    • Now is the time to think about whether you want to and are able to attend the CCL Lobby Day at the end of June 2017 and/or the CCL Congressional Education Day in mid November 2017, both in DC. Remember, we want something passed by the end of 2017! Thus far both Eric and I will be at the June event.
  • Notes from my meeting with the Iowa City TIF Focus Group, and Cheryl’s meeting with the Mayor are included below.
  • Terri will let us know about the Years of Living Dangerously watch party after she has worked out some issues with her internet provider–stay tuned!
  • We talked briefly about how each of us can find a way to “plug into” our efforts to address climate change–in particular passing a revenue-neutral fee on carbon (such as Carbon Fee & Dividend) by the end of 2017.
    • The challenge is to find a role that that is comfortable for you–something you will enjoy doing. (Taking on a role out of guilt, or because no one else is doing it are not good reasons to act, and will only result in burn-out.)
    • Something that is relatively easy that we all can do is contact our Members of Congress via phone, web/email, or snail mail. Contacting them regularly in whatever way you are comfortable is what is most important–don’t lose sleep arguing with yourself over which method is most effective. If you are unsure of how to do this, join CCL (if you haven’t already–http://citizensclimatelobby.org/) and then join CCL-Community (they will tell you how to do this once you join CCL), then go to https://citizensclimatelobby.org/write-congress-about-climate-change/#/7/.
    • Additional roles that are waiting to be filled include:
      • Someone to organize our efforts to gather endorsements for Carbon Fee & Dividend,
      • Someone to organize our outreach efforts, particularly Tabling,
      • Someone to organize our fundraising efforts, and to apply for tax-exempt status.
      • There is plenty of help if you are interested in any of these roles, you don’t have to already know what to do.
      • Alternately, I (Peter) could take on one of these roles if someone wanted to take over my current role as meeting planner and/or web and email coordinator.
      • Once these organizational roles are filled, it will be very easy for those of us who do not want to be involved at the organizational level to just sign up for a simple one-time task such as tabling at an event, or reaching out to one organization for an endorsement.
  • And one last but most important announcement: Eric Johnson and Jenna Hammerich are now the proud parents of a beautiful girl–Hazel. Congratulations to the three of you!

UPCOMING EVENTS:

  • Years of Living Dangerously” Watch Party, time TBA
  • Regional Citizens’ Climate Lobby Conference: March 17-19 at the Iowa Lakeside Lab on the west shore of Lake Okaboji in Northwest Iowa, at Iowa Lakeside Lab.
  • International Citizens’ Climate Lobby Meeting and Congressional Lobby Day: June 11-13 in Washington DC.
  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby Congressional Education Day: Some time TBA in November, 2017.

Our Next Meeting will be either Saturday December 10, late morning, or Wednesday December 21 at 7:30 pm–we will keep you posted!

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  • Peter’s notes from TIF Focus Group Meeting
    • In November I attended a meeting, hosted by the City Council Economic Development Council, to gather feedback for how TIF (Tax Increment Financing) should be done in Iowa City. This group was focusing on sustainability, and I was there as a representative of our group (ICCA/CCL). The leader of the meeting was Wendy Ford, who works for the City.
    • I learned that TIF is a flexible way, allowed by the state, to use property tax money–particularly the increase in property tax when the landowner improves the property. A certain portion of the tax from the increased value of the property can be used for TIF for a certain number of years past the date the property was improved. For example, if you build a big hotel your property taxes go up, and for a few years a certain portion of the increase in taxes can be used for specific purposes.
    • TIF only happens in certain predetermined (by the city) zones called TIF zones.
    • The City doesn’t have to use all the available TIF money for these purposes–what the City doesn’t use just goes into the general fund.
    • Examples of what the City could do with the money include: giving money back to the developer to make it easier for development to happen, use the money to help pay for things we’d like to see, such as solar panels or sustainable landscaping.
    • Iowa City uses a much smaller amount of its possible TIF money than the surrounding communities and, I think, does not use it as much to simply “encourage more development” than do surrounding communities.
    • The only thing I suggested was that helping a developer make a building carbon-neutral, or closer to carbon-neutral than is typical now, was deserving of TIF money. Others at the meeting knew a lot more about these things than I do. We all seemed to agree on most things that were brought up. Other suggestions that I remember include: having a minumum sustainability requirement for receiving TIF money, with more money if you go above the minimum, having the City make its buildings and grounds more sustainable to set a good example.
    • I sent a follow-up email to Wendy making note of the fact that one of the challenges of sustainable development is the conflict between long-term and short-term thinking, and the related fact that developers don’t currently have a strong incentive to make apartments sustainable since doing so reduces future costs for the renter but not for the developer. Perhaps part of the “guide” to how we do TIF should implicly include trying to minimize these obstacles to sustainable development in the broadest way possible.
    • There will be Economic Development Council meetings about TIF in the future, which I will be informed about, and to which any of us are welcome to attend.

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Jim Olson’s Notes from the United Nations Association Meeting With Mayor Throgmorton (Cheryl attended this meeting on our behalf, but is unable to attend our meeting tonight, but she will get back to us about the progress of steps 1 & 2 below, and about conversations she has had with Brenda Nations, Iowa City Sustainability Coordinator; Jim Olson is with the United Nations Association, which organized this meeting.):

Meeting with Mayor Jim Throgmorton

November 11, 2016

The Johnson County Chapter of the United Nations Association – USA convened a meeting with Mayor Jim Throgmorton and representatives of several environmental and climate action groups to share information on how Iowa City will implement the goals of the  Compact of Mayors, of which Mayor Throgmorton (and Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie and Dubuque Mayor Ray Buol) is a member.  Iowa UNA president John Fraser met earlier this fall with mayors Cownie and Throgmorton to discuss how citizens may help with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and encourage other Iowa mayors to join the compact.

Jim Throgmorton briefly described the Compact of Mayors, which recently merged with the Covnenant of Mayors to become the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.  Iowa City joined as a way of emphasizing what the city is doing already and to advance the climate action goals in the city’s strategic plan.

At the November 1 Work Session of the City Council, IC Sustainability Coordinator Brenda Nations presented a two-pronged plan:

  1. Hiring a consultant to provide technical analysis and recommendations for achieving a 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Iowa City by 2025, in line with the terms of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement; and
  2. Formation of an advisory committee composed of community members and stake-holders from, for example, business, industry, the University, and citizens.

Iowa City has already inventoried its greenhouse gas emissions, beginning in 2000 with several updates.  Mayor Throgmorton and Brenda Nations have had conversations with the UI College of Engineering and with Jerry Schnoor, for assistance in the project from UI students and faculty.  The Council will formally act on this recommendation at its December 1 meeting.

Attendees expressed support for this initiative and enthusiasm for helping in its implementation, especially in the area of public education.   They briefly described their organizations:

Iowa City Climate Activists (Cheryl Miller) is a five-year old organization that has focused on the introduction of a carbon tax and dividend.  It is a local chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.

100 Grannies (Ann Christensen) is also five years old and in Iowa City has focused on banning plastic shopping bags.  Ann mentioned Arcadia Power, an opportunity for households to buy wind-generated electrical power.

Environmental Advocates (Del Holland) has sponsored a variety of forums and programs, including a campaign to make IC (and adjacent communities) bicycle friendly.

Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility (Maureen McCue), founded in the 1980s, is the Iowa affiliate of Physicians for Social Responsibility with a focus on the nexus of the nuclear threat and climate change.

United Nations Association (Jim Olson) informs and mobilizes Iowans in support of the work of the UN; climate action is one of two priority topics in Iowa.

Attendees expressed appreciation to Mayor Throgmorton for this meeting and to the City Council and staff for moving forward on this issue.  The groups represented at the meeting wish to continue communication and collaboration.

JMO, recorder

Attending:

Mayor Jim Throgmorton

Ann Christensen (100 Grannies)

Becky Ross (100 Grannies)

Del Holland (Environmental Advocates)

Katy Hansen (UNA, Johnson County Chapter)

Maureen McCue (Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility)

Fatima Saeed (UNA, Johnson County Chapter)

Sandra Eskin (Iowa United Nations Association)

Cheryl Miller (Iowa City Climate Advocates)

Susan McGuire (UNA, Johnson County Chapter)

Jim Olson (UNA, Johnson County Chapter)

 

Also invited:  Backyard Abundance, Sierra Club, ECOPOLIS

 

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LASER TALK

Impact of Carbon Fee and Dividend on households

One of the biggest concerns with pricing carbon is the financial impact it would have on American households, particularly low- and middle-income families. The good news is that returning revenue from a carbon fee on a per-capita basis will, for the most part, alleviate those concerns.

In February of 2016, CCL/CCE released a working paper from Kevin Ummel [1], a Research Scholar in the energy program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Ummel assessed the net financial impact of a $15-per-ton of CO2 carbon fee with all proceeds returned to households equally. He found that 53% of U.S. households and 58% of individuals receive a net financial benefit as the dividend exceeds the estimated increase in costs of goods.

Breaking down the data by income level, those on the lower end did very well. Nearly 90% of those living below the Federal Poverty level benefited from the policy. Average net benefit was $311 for those below the federal poverty line. Among households within 200% of the Federal Poverty level — low income — 82% benefited from the policy, with an average net benefit of $243.

Looking at other demographics:

  • Among minority households, 82% benefited or experienced a minor loss, defined as less than 0.2% of income.
  • In rural areas, 54% benefited and 17% experienced minor loss.
  • In suburbs, 50% benefited with 21% experiencing minor loss.
  • In urban areas, the figures were 57% and 18%.

It’s important to note that the study does not factor in the benefits of reducing carbon pollution – lower health costs, lessened risk of natural disasters, for example. Further, the study assumed 100% of the carbon fee is passed on to consumers. Evidence indicates businesses actually pass on about 87% of costs for energy price increases. This means the same amount of money is being collected and returned, but costs don’t rise as much. More people would therefore end up ahead.

Overall, the Ummel paper shows a majority of American households benefiting from Carbon Fee and Dividend, with the benefits being greatest among disadvantaged households.

[1] Financial Impact on Households of Carbon Fee and Dividend: http://citizensclimatelobby.org/household-impact-study/

 


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