State skips climate-change grants, Iowa cities reap $3 million instead

DES MOINES — A handful of Iowa’s biggest cities has been awarded $3 million to work on solutions to climate change at the local level.

The climate pollution reduction grants are part of a $5 billion program to assess climate change and come up with ways to address a steadily warming planet.

Pam Mackey-Taylor, director of the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club, said when the state of Iowa declined to apply for the grants, it opened up the opportunities to individual communities. They will use the money to develop specific plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful air pollution at the local level.

“The cities of Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines decided to pursue the grants,” Mackey-Taylor explained. “They are going to be doing planning for not only the cities but the counties they’re in and some of the neighboring counties.”

Cedar Rapids and Iowa City together were awarded $2 million, and Des Moines received $1 million. Mackey-Taylor pointed out the money will be used on things such as making buildings more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Iowa was one of just four states not to pursue grant funding on a statewide basis. The others were Florida, South Dakota and Kentucky.

The Environmental Protection Agency will help train local and tribal leaders on how best to plan for and use the money. Mackey-Taylor noted while the smaller grants are critical to addressing the problems at the local level, Iowa may have missed an opportunity to work on bigger issues by passing on the larger grants.

“We still have some challenges,” Mackey-Taylor observed. “Our agriculture sector in Iowa generates 29% of the greenhouse gasses. Our residential, commercial and industrial generate 27% of the state’s greenhouse gasses and our electricity and power plants generate 19%.”

Iowa has made strides in reducing emissions in the electricity sector. More than half of the state’s power is now generated by wind.