Planning & Public Engagement Process Overview
On February 25, 2020, the Cedar Rapids City Council passed a resolution recognizing the urgency for community climate action.
The resolution declared an urgent need for a community climate action plan to achieve the following targets:
- Reduce greenhouse gases; 45% carbon reduction by 2030; achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050; these are science-based targets aimed to keep global temperature rise below 1.5℃
- Increase renewables to 70-80% of total energy supplied by 2050
- Build resilience to climate hazards (floodplain protection, flash flooding protection, and green infrastructure)
- Ensure access to basic needs for vulnerable communities--clean air and water, green space, healthy food, green jobs, and a direct line of communications to the City
In response to the February 2020 Climate Action resolution, City staff and engaged community members prepared a Community Climate Action Plan. Their work was guided by the following goals:
- Identify short- and long-term actions that will prepare the City to achieve 2030 and 2050 climate targets,
- Center equity, community feedback and balanced interests,
- Build a cleaner, stronger, more vibrant Cedar Rapids, and
- Move the community forward together.
Climate Change & Equity | Background
As human-created greenhouse gases are added to Earth’s atmosphere, global temperatures warm and cause extreme weather to occur more often and more intensely. In Cedar Rapids, this means more hot days, flash flooding, river flooding, and weather anomalies — best summarized by the Iowa Policy Project’s “An Uncertain Future for Iowa.”
Our industrial world is burning too many fossil fuels which are filling the atmosphere and creating a hotter, more extreme climate. We need to reduce (mitigate) these man-made greenhouse gases and also build resilience (adapt to) this increasingly extreme climate.
Earth’s climate has always fluctuated, influenced by natural forces like the Sun, Earth’s orbital cycle, and large volcanic eruptions. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans also force Earth’s climate to change in two big ways:
- Burning fossil fuels, which adds gases to the atmosphere that trap heat (greenhouse gases)
- Developing the land, which releases carbon from the soil and reduces its ability to absorb carbon (a greenhouse gas)
In summary, taking action means helping the environment, which helps people’s health and creates a more beautiful community.
Additional Scientific Resources
- International Panel on Climate Change
- National Climate Assessment
- Iowa’s Annual Climate Statement
Cedar Rapids’ extreme weather events impact everyone, though residents with existing vulnerabilities are impacted the most. High heat events impact those without air conditioning more; disasters requiring quick mobility and cash expenditure impact those with less money; and extreme weather impacts people with existing health challenges more.
“Social vulnerabilities” make a person’s ability to withstand extreme weather events more challenging — factors like poverty, racial disparities, being very young or old, or having language or citizenship barriers.
Climate Actions & Equity
Cedar Rapids centered “equity” and considered how accessible “climate actions” are to all residents with different social vulnerabilities while developing its plan. Improvements to safe walking, biking, and transit environments, or helping homeowners and renters install energy efficiency options are important climate actions and provide benefits to everyone but particularly those that have fewer lower incomes or mobility options. While important solutions, electric vehicles or solar could be less immediately accessible to most.
Equitable Engagement Approach
Cedar Rapids’ Community Climate Action Plan process made use of the following resources and existing relationships in the community to work toward an equitable engagement process:
- United Way of East Central Iowa’s Equity & Well-Being report,
- The Guide to Equitable Community Driven Climate Preparedness, and
- Climate action plans from Indianapolis, San Antonio, Cleveland.
Timeline to Community Climate Action
Phase 1 — Education & Community Input
On October 22 and 29, 2020, two Community Climate Action Plan Kickoff Events launched the City's public process to respond to climate change. The events charted our Climate Action planning process and launched a Community Climate Action Survey. During the events, community leaders shared diverse perspectives and their personal relationship with climate change and equity. The two kickoff events were recorded and available below:
After the events, staff followed up with panelists to respond to questions unanswered due to time limitations. (Download Audience/Panelist Q&As)
The Cedar Rapids community provided extensive input on the plan. Initial engagement launched in October 2020 and included online and in-person surveys translated in several languages. Key findings included:
- Residents identified heat as a primary climate hazard of concern,
- Residents’ top three climate priorities included:
- Replanting trees,
- Increasing renewable energy, and
- Winterizing homes.
Phase 2 — Planning & Engagement
The public input process prioritized equitable engagement, with a particular interest in surveying populations classified as vulnerable by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CAC worked with City staff from January through September 2021 to steer development of the Community Climate Action Plan. Committee members were appointed by Mayor Brad Hart and approved by City Council. Learn more.
Groups including such stakeholders as small businesses, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, schools, large businesses and local industries — provided valuable input during the planning process.
A second round of community surveying occurred in June 2021. This survey opportunity included online and in-person events and several Rollin’ Recmobile stops in neighborhood parks. Key findings of this outreach effort included residents’ top priorities for climate action:
- Healthy food access,
- Energy-efficient homes, and
- Replanting trees.
In the second round of surveys, 29% of respondents came from households earning under $25,000 (18% of Cedar Rapids’ households have incomes of less than $25,000), and 28% of respondents identified as non-white (17% of Cedar Rapids residents identify as non-white).
Open House Event
The final draft plan was shared publicly at an Open House event on September 21, 2021. View display boards presented at the event.
Phase 3 — Plan Finalized & Action Continues
The Cedar Rapids City Council approved the plan on September 28, 2021. View the final plan document.
Follow along with updates on the plan's implementation at www.CityofCR.com/Climate.
EnvisionCR (January 2015) | GreenCR, Goal 3, Initiative 15: Prepare a community-wide Climate Action Plan that builds on the Energy Management Plan and addresses emission from land use, transportation, street lights, water consumption, waste generation, and building energy.
iGreenCR Action Plan (January 2020) | Resources, Goal 1, Objective A: Convene community stakeholder group to develop climate action and adaptation plan.
Climate Action Resolution (February 2020): The City Council of the City of Cedar Rapids officially recognized an urgency for community climate action in this February 2020 resolution. The Council commits to developing a community-wide sustainability plan with various climate mitigation, climate adaptation, climate justice targets, and job and worker guarantees — utilizing a steering committee with diverse community members representing various demographics.