Ames projected to miss city council climate goals


Screenshot courtesy of the AmesTelevision YouTube channel

Screenshot from the presentation Sustainability Solutions Group presented to the Ames City Council during their Nov. 15 meeting.

The Ames City Council was informed by their Climate Action Plan consultant that their model indicates the city will not meet its 2030 or 2050 emission reduction goals Tuesday evening.

According to Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG), the group consulting with the council on their plan, the city will miss its goal to reduce emissions by 83% by 2030 and become net carbon neutral by 2050.

Their model indicates that Ames is on pace to reduce emissions by 70% by 2030 and 94% by 2050. Sustainability Solutions Group’s presentation to the council included examples from other cities on how to implement the six big moves in the Climate Action Plan.

One of those examples was from Ithaca, New York, where a private company worked with the city to retrofit buildings, but Mayor John Haila wanted more Ames-centric solutions.

“We can present an image… but as we talked about all along, here we’re interested in the details and how this is going to unfold to make sure that we’re not saying ‘oh we’re just going to follow Ithaca, New York,’” Haila said.

The council discussed with Sustainability Solutions Group representatives approaches to pay for the plan. Sustainability Solutions Group indicated that variables like energy prices and the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war mean the final cost will be in flux throughout implementation.

“The Inflation Reduction Act [is] the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history,” said Erik Frenette, an employee of  the Sustainability Solutions Group. “There is around $400 billion of funding that’s available, and it’ll be very key to take advantage of this.”

Additionally, their initial $2.4 billion price tag did not account for inflation in the past year but does account for replacement costs for things such as batteries on electric buses.

“The overall price still has a lot of sticker shock,” said Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin.

City staff said the council should ignore the grand total for now because there is still work to be done before a final cost can be determined.

There are many options for the council to consider, like suggestions by Ward 1 Rep. Gloria Betcher. She said the city could work with DMACC’s Hunziker Center on future climate-based construction projects and buy more biodiesel CyRide buses in addition to the plan to add more electric buses.

“We have a lack of expertise in the community, so it seems like whatever the city does, if we don’t have people who build that way, we are not going to be able to increase the number of net-zero ready homes,” Betcher said .“You can incent all you like [but] if there’s no expertise it’s not going to get us anywhere.”

Tuesday’s meeting adjourned with the council wanting more public input on the matter in future council meetings. The city is budgeting for a dedicated climate action position in the 2024 fiscal year to help Ames meet its goals, but no concrete actions on the Climate Action Plan will be taken until at least 2023.

The council will meet Friday morning telephonically at 8:30 for a short meeting unrelated to the climate plan on what the mayor described as a time-sensitive issue.

“It has to do with a project that is high priority and that is the railroad helping pay for the improvements at the sidewalk on 24th Street,” Haila said.