The next six months are critical in Kansas City’s efforts to address the climate crisis, provide more affordable housing, and catalyze a robust post-pandemic economy. Unprecedented $ 550 billion in funding to fight climate change will soon be granted by Congress. Urgent action in investments and local policies is needed to fully benefit from these dollars in our region.
Since the pandemic, Climate Action KC and the Mid-America Regional Council have developed a regional climate plan. Kansas City is updating its own plan, and city council has passed resolutions – setting new carbon targets, recommending new building codes and declaring a climate emergency. Now is the time to act. Our region – led by Kansas City – must move forward quickly with the following actions:
âª Decarbonize the electricity grid, including a new large-capacity solar farm at the Kansas City International Airport. Our local utility, Evergy, must continue to strengthen its leadership role in reducing carbon emissions. Expanding federal tax credits for wind, solar and energy storage will be key to achieving this. The city can do its part to help this effort by making public land available to develop solar power on a large scale, resulting in a large 300 megawatt solar installation near the airport – a visible symbol of the commitment. of our city for climate action. The solar farm can and should be developed and financed privately, with the support of federal tax credits. The project, or the electricity produced, can then be sold to Evergy. This approach means less financial risk for the city, as the business of generating, transmitting and distributing electricity is a complicated business with many layers of federal, state and regional requirements.
âª Tighten up leaking buildings. Buildings account for over 60% of Kansas City’s greenhouse gas emissions. Making them more energy efficient by sealing leaks with insulation and installing efficient windows, water heaters, and heating and cooling systems is the cheapest source of clean energy. The role of the city should be to support the creation of an energy efficiency investment fund in the coming months with the next federal dollars, which, complemented by support from the private sector, can provide immediate and long-term funding. to improve the energy performance of buildings.
A top priority for building efficiency work should be apartment buildings and single-family homes in low-income areas, where energy loads are highest. Reducing the energy bills of low-income households by sealing older homes is an effective way to address historic equity issues. This would make buildings more comfortable in inclement weather, lower people’s energy bills, and lower the high cost of meeting peak demand during extreme weather events. The city should also immediately pass a new building code to help with new buildings, so we don’t have to go back and renovate them a few years down the road.
âª Refresh the urban heat island effect. We must finance the planting of tens of thousands of trees and preserve the existing trees, as requested in Kansas City Urban Forest Master Plan, approved by the city council in 2020. Trees are an exceptional investment for the future, with many co-benefits: a cooler city, cleaner air, carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater and water. beautified streets. Carefully placed trees to shade buildings can reduce summer air conditioning bills by up to 50%, while reducing peak demand for utilities. For these reasons, the Energy Efficiency Investment Fund mentioned above could also include support for trees. Educational campaigns are needed for city governments, businesses and private citizens to help the citizens of Kansas appreciate the full value of our trees and the need to fund our future urban forests.
âª Invest in clean transportation. Act quickly to encourage the electrification of public and private vehicles, prioritizing school buses, transit fleets and other heavy vehicles when possible.
At the United Nations COP 26 conference, the world is setting new goals that are critical to tackling the global climate crisis, and that can also improve global health and prosperity. The Kansas City area is on the cusp of great things, if it seizes this opportunity.
Kristin Riott is the executive director of the nonprofit Bridging The Gap of Kansas City 501 (c) (3).