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Kansas City's latest climate report says 'bolder action is required' to depend less on cars

Rows of tall buildings, the Kansas City downtwon, line up across a deep blue sky.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City released a draft of the city's Climate Protection and Resiliency Plan on Wednesday for the community to offer feedback until April 12.

A newly released climate action plan calls for better bike infrastructure and public transit options, more investment in clean energy and access to fresh, healthy food in all neighborhoods. The goal is for Kansas City to be carbon-neutral by 2040.

Kansas City officials want community feedback on a plan to reduce the city’s carbon emissions.

The Climate Protection and Resiliency Plan examines six primary action areas – ranging from creating programs to grow and share nutritional food to exploring more options to provide clean and affordable energy to homes across Kansas City.

The goal is for Kansas City to be carbon-neutral by 2040.

Lara Isch, the city’s sustainability manager, said she wants this to be a plan that Kansas City residents can actually incorporate into their lives — as well as a guide city officials use to make policy decisions with climate change in mind.

Kansas City unveiled its first Climate Action plan in 2008 and while the city has taken some strides in reducing carbon emissions since then, the city council directed city staff in 2020 to update the plan to accelerate reductions.

“We want it to spur urgent action,” Isch said. “This is happening now. It’s going to continue to happen.”

The new plan, unveiled Wednesday, also places environmental justice front and center.

“We acknowledge the ways in which many of our past plans and policies have impacted or contribute to racial segregation, discrimination and oppression of Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x and other historically marginalized communities,” the climate steering committee writes in the opening statement.

“The climate crisis has only intensified these inequities, disproportionately impacting those facing systemic barriers toward living secure and healthy lives.”

Isch noted the plan is a “living document” that stakeholders and residents can examine and comment on until April 12.

She also said they want the community to offer suggestions on renaming the document and on initiatives or programs already happening in the region that Kansas City could implement to help reach its climate goals.

“We’re asking to help let us know what’s already out there that we can plug into or that may not be directly climate related but kind of aligns with some of the goals or areas of this plan that resonate with people.”

The plan focuses in six major strategies:

Mobility – reducing miles traveled by car by expanding bike and pedestrian networks and improving public transit and investing in low-emission vehicles.

Energy Supply – increasing the city’s use of clean energy by investing in renewable energy generators and improving grid stability and and resilience.

Natural Systems – using nature to cool the city, prevent flood damage and clean the air and water; expand the network of trees and natural areas.

Homes and Buildings – ensuring climate-ready, efficient construction and improving the efficiency, affordability and durability of homes.

Food – improving healthy and sustainable food access as well as encouraging production of local food.

Waste and Materials – diverting wastes from the landfill and reducing illegal dumping as well as diverting organic waste from the landfill through composting.

Anyone interested in contributing to the plan can use the city’s Playbook site to offer comments in the interactive document. Isch also said the public can offer comments using email or phone, but she encouraged people to not inundate the city’s voicemail system. She said to use specific links on the city’s web site to call or email their comments.

Isch likened the feedback process to crowd-sourcing. The goal, she says, would be to collect all the comments and then use that to make the document more accessible and understandable for all users. She hoped to present the final document to a city council committee by May 4.

“We’re asking folks to look through the plan,” Isch says. “We have a city of half a million people and we don’t know everything that’s going on.”

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