Climate strikers in Iowa City continue to call on University of Iowa leaders to stop using coal at power plant

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Six weeks removed from Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg's visit to Iowa City, climate strikers locally say they have not received a response from the University of Iowa. Thousands gathered blocks away from the Pentacrest in Iowa City, calling on the University to stop using coal at its power plant immediately.

The University of Iowa Power Plant on November 22, 2019. (Randy Dircks/KCRG)

Students in the Iowa City Community School District started striking every Friday, directly inspired by Thunberg. It was their goal to have the city and school district declare a climate emergency and make changes to reduce their carbon footprint by 2030 and zero-emissions by 2050. Both the city and school district responded with plans, with the city officially releasing its climate action plan on November 14.

But some students involved with the climate strike say they are frustrated because they have not heard back from officials at the University of Iowa.

The University of Iowa said in a statement to TV9 in October that the University has pledged to go coal-free by 2025, but climate strikers say they want to see coal phased out as a form of energy on campus much faster.

Maddie Patterson, a sophomore at the University of Iowa, said she joined the strike around the time the focus shifted towards the University. She said the goal of the group of this point is not only to get recognition from school officials but also to see them act quickly.

"We expected the University to listen to us on some level," Patterson said. "We weren't expecting them to change right away, we know that wasn't going to happen. But we thought we would have gotten at least a little bit more acknowledgment by now. So knowing that they haven't said anything to us is very disappointing."

Patterson said while climate strikers are still dedicated to their purpose, they believe the end goal would be to see the University join the city and school district in declaring a climate emergency and making immediate changes.

"I think the end goal is getting the University of Iowa to declare that there is a climate emergency, to declare that they're going to work to mitigate their effects on the climate emergency and to stop burning coal in the power plant- I think that's when we're going to be satisfied," Patterson said.

TV9 reached out to the University of Iowa for comment on the school's plans, and if anything has changed since Thunberg's visit to Iowa City. Anne Bassett, a spokesperson for the University of Iowa sent a response. Her full response reads:
The University of Iowa is committed to reducing its impact on Iowa City and the planet and has pledged to be coal-free by 2025

The university addresses issues through the practice of shared governance, a collaborative decision-making process between university administration, faculty, staff, and students. University administrators and shared governance leaders have been meeting to continue engaging on issues involving sustainability on campus.

Here is more information about the UI's path to being coal-free by 2025.

In addition, the university has made concrete commitments to reducing its impact on the planet. In 2010, through a process of shared governance, the UI set 2020 goals around sustainability across campus. You can find those goals and their mid-term progress listed on our sustainability website. While the university has met most of these goals ahead of schedule, it's always constantly looking for ways to push forward in reducing its campus footprint.