A nonprofit research organization based in Iowa City is asking lawmakers to include low-income families in policies to combat climate change. Beth Pearson, with the Iowa Policy Project , says solutions to cutting carbon emissions come at a cost that many Iowans can’t afford.
"We want low-income Iowans to be apart of our state effort to reduce our carbon footprint, because they’re energy consumers too," Pearson said. "We’re really calling on legislators to take that into account when they’re designing climate change policy and energy efficiency policy to make sure they build in to those policies the tools that low-income Iowans can use to reduce their own emissions and to help the state reduce it’s emissions."
Pearson has authored a report that cites government data – indicating the impact of climate change policies is twice as hard on low-income households. She says her organization simply wants environmentalists and low-income advocates on the same side of the issue. Pearson says lawmakers need to do more than help low-income Iowans with their heating bills. She suggests offering rebates through the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system, which is currently used for food stamps.
Pearson says, "The point that we’re trying to emphasize there is that you really are going have to think about things that you might not necessarily associate with climate change. There are ways that you have to be able to deliver rebates that are going to be able to help people meet those gas costs and food costs – and not just the cost of heating or cooling their home."
Pearson says lawmakers should consider establishing programs for the poor to help make energy-efficient appliances more affordable. "When it comes to an up-front cost, something like even purchasing a new refrigerator…that’s just a cost that low-income families can’t do up-front. They need some kind of loan system," Pearson said. "For them, the disproportionate nature of those purchases really means that it’s not happening."
The report offers other suggestions, including expansion of Iowa’s Weatherization Assistance Program and developing minimum efficiency standards for rental properties. The full report is available online at the Iowa Policy Project’s website.