KCATA introduced zero emission electric buses in April.

Rep. Cleaver addresses climate change at the local level

The aim is to be climate neutral by 2040, reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible while compensating for any remaining emissions. 

By Jill Draper

Do you like the climate in Houston? That’s what Kansas City might be like in 20-30 years if we don’t focus on reducing emissions and saving energy, said officials at an online meeting of the South Kansas City Alliance on Sept. 13.

The energy-themed meeting began with a pre-recorded talk by U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, who announced he would be working in the next 90 days with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority to launch an ambitious program to provide free rides on electric buses in three 21st century corridors. The corridors (which are yet to be determined) would provide charging stations for electric vehicles.

“It will be no emissions and no admissions,” he quipped. “This will be a major part of what I’m doing in the next session of Congress as a response to climate change.”

Cleaver talked about improvements Missouri would see or be eligible to compete for if Congress passes a $3.5 trillion budget bill. “Missouri infrastructure is in dire need of repair,” he said. “For decades it’s been suffering from a lack of investment—2,190 bridges are in poor condition and every driver pays for poor streets through damage to their cars.”

If the $3.5 trillion plan passes, he said it would offer unbelievable opportunities to make changes in our community and would be the most significant piece of legislation since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

“There’s a certain amount of urgency in moving forward,” agreed Andrew Savastino, Kansas City’s chief environmental officer. In 2020 the City Council revised a 2008 climate protection plan with goals that are much more aggressive, he said. The aim is to be climate neutral by 2040, reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible while compensating for any remaining emissions. 

According to Savastino, the city reduced emissions 24% from 2005-2019, but still has 76% to go. Otherwise we can look forward to more flooding, severe urban heat events, air pollution and disease, he said.

Savastino noted that equity will be a priority, since those most affected by climate change often are communities of color, the elderly, low income residents, outdoor workers and immigrants and refugees.

He urged all citizens to share their stories, concerns and proposed solutions at playbook.kcmo.gov/CPRP. The plan is to collect ideas at the neighborhood level this fall, and match them up with data to identify how we can change.

The final speaker was Mary English, program manager for Metropolitan Energy Center, who talked about efforts to help building owners increase energy efficiency and measure their success for benchmarking purposes. She also cited free programs and rebates by Evergy and Spire to help both homeowners and commercial building owners save energy. See more at metroenergy.org.


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