Home Greenhouse Polk County, Iowa Passes Climate Action Resolution

Polk County, Iowa Passes Climate Action Resolution

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Polk County is taking its first steps towards prioritizing climate action and tackling climate change on the subway.

On Tuesday, the Polk County Supervisory Board passed a resolution that launches the county’s first-ever energy audit to assess not only energy use but also greenhouse gas emissions across all properties and locations. county vehicles.

The resolution is the result of at least one working session and planning meetings over several months to decide on the most effective method to tackle climate change in Polk County.

“Lead by example, if you will,” Polk County Administrator John Norris said, adding, “I’m sure we’ll share what we learn with the public so that the private sector can take advantage of this. that we do as they seek to adopt measures to combat climate change. “

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Iowa has seen the impacts of climate change in the form of extreme weather events, including a derecho in August 2020, goes from severe droughts to extreme flooding and higher temperatures, all of which have contributed to loss of life and public and private financial costs, according to the board resolution.

Norris estimates that the energy audit will begin within the next three months. The county will also assemble an interdepartmental climate action team to work with the consulting firm chosen to conduct the audit to make further practice and policy recommendations to the supervisory board.

“I hope all departments will have an interest in participating, certainly general services… county conservation… even the sheriff’s office – it’s probably our largest fleet of vehicles,” Norris said. “Any other department where there are employees interested in this topic – I want people on this team who have energy and commitment around this issue.”

The objectives of the resolution include:

  • Performing the audit.
  • Create a climate action plan to feed into key county planning and processes.
  • Commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from county operations by 90% from current levels by 2040.

What sustainability looks like in other countries

In June, the county hosted a working session with the state’s only two full-time County Sustainability Coordinators to learn how Polk County could tackle climate change by dedicating a team or individual to iron. launch sustainability initiatives.

Sustainability is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency such as creating and sustaining the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations, which can be achieved by adopting climate action plans, by implementing “green” practices ”, Helping to make these“ green ”practices accessible to vulnerable communities, etc.

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Johnson County Sustainability Coordinator Becky Soglin and Linn County Sustainability Program Director Tamara Marcus both gave presentations to the board on how they are approaching sustainability in their counties. and how Polk County could do the same.

While having similar goals, Soglin and Marcus said they approach their roles in different ways.

Becky Soglin, Johnson County Sustainability Coordinator, in front of the ground-based solar panel that supplies some of the electricity to the Johnson County Administrative Building located near downtown Iowa City.

Soglin, who has been in his post for 10 years and has a background in planning, takes a more operational role in county government, often asking how the county can be more energy efficient. She said the answers are often found by implementing recycling measures or increasing energy efficiency standards in county buildings.

Johnson County has also been able to develop sustainability grants for nonprofits in the area.

Marcus, who was the first Linn County sustainability program manager last year, approaches his post from an environmental justice lens, often looking for ways to make local climate action and development practices sustainable accessible to vulnerable communities.

More recently, this has included finding fair ways to replant the lost canopy in the derecho and releasing the county’s first greenhouse gas inventory.

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Although their positions differ slightly, Marcus and Soglin often discuss ideas with each other, building on what the other is doing in their respective counties.

“I think it gives us an incredible opportunity to tap into each other’s skills because we come from different backgrounds, we approach it in a slightly different way. Becky, who has more of a background in planning, and I, who is more climatologist, context of climate action, ”said Marcus.

So what advice did they get?

Generally, Soglin told Polk County supervisors that it was okay to “start small,” focusing on immediate issues that could be addressed immediately as part of a plan that could also include more initiatives. important and longer term.

“I would also say that sustainability really involves collaborations. As we look, individually, at what we’re doing, I think a lot of the solutions are going to come from collaboration, because we don’t want to choose just one thing…. has a lot of ways we are connected on the inside, ”Soglin said.

Marcus stressed the importance of having a team or person dedicated to the fight against climate change.

“The time has passed for us to passively deal with this problem,” said Marcus. “I think we need someone who has that kind of systems approach to take a step back and see… those are the needs.”

Norris said Polk County plans to do its energy audit first before assessing what levels of staff might be warranted to tackle the issue through this report.

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The current resolution reflects the board’s interest in addressing sustainability in Polk County’s operations first, but Norris says the county will strive to share its climate action plan with the public so to influence others to take similar action.

Norris said the county hopes the report will eventually include recommendations on the potential solar or geothermal systems may have in current and future county building designs, where electric car charging stations in county buildings would be. better installed and how to prioritize the county’s existing vehicles should be replaced by electric ones.

Melody Mercado covers the east of the Des Moines metro for the register. Reach her at [email protected] or Twitter @melodymercadotv.