Guest Commentary

KC-area cities will take action on climate solutions if Washington won’t

Shawnee Councilwoman Lindsey Constance and Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly
Shawnee Councilwoman Lindsey Constance and Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly

On Saturday, Dec. 8, 130 Kansas City Metro-area leaders, approximately half elected office-holders, from both sides of the state line, met to learn and discuss climate resilience solutions aimed at reducing the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. Many of the strategies discussed enhance quality of life, while also providing cost savings and economic benefit.

Recently, The Star has published multiple news articles and several op-ed pieces on the pending challenges of climate change and its impact on the metro area. This is with good reason: Recent reports such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the fourth iteration of the National Climate Assessment make clear that the time for conversation is quickly dissipating and the need for action is imminent.

Although not a coastal city, Kansas City remains on the front lines in the need for climate resilience due to an expected increase in high degree days, periods of excessive drought and increased extreme weather such as severe rains and flash flooding.

While we agree that those in the White House have abdicated their role as leaders in protecting the nation’s health and environment, we recognize that local leaders are the ones best equipped to enact meaningful and expedient solutions to climate change. Cities have been the hubs of culture and innovation for centuries, while being home to the majority of the world’s people and thus, emitting the majority of the world’s greenhouse gases. Consequently, the creative and innovative solutions, as well as the greatest opportunity for emissions reductions, flow from urbanites.

Kansas City is a prime example. Since enacting its Climate Action Plan in 2008, greenhouse emissions have decreased from municipal operations by 40 percent. As KCP&L’s largest single customer, Kansas City is negotiating with the utility for the opportunity to move to a 100 percent renewable municipal operation fuel mixture. This is meaningful action that should not be dismissed.

Other municipalities are ready to follow suit with solutions designed to improve efficiency, save money and reduce greenhouse emissions. We will implement these solutions in our individual municipalities where we can, and will partner with other communities when it makes fiscal sense. As the layer of government closest to the people, we can have the quickest and most direct impact on our residents.

We are not naive. We know that if the world is to meet its goals of keeping global temperature increases below catastrophic levels, some level of federal action will be necessary. This action, if it is to occur, will be slow, brutally opposed and defanged through partisan negotiations. In the interim, we will keep working to identify and adopt actions to make Kansas City’s metro communities healthier, resilient and economically vibrant.

Dec. 8 was our first, but by no means last, meeting to discuss these solutions. The Star, and specifically columnist Steve Rose, remain welcome to join us. We look forward to hearing from you.

Lindsey Constance serves on the Shawnee City Council and Mike Kelly is mayor of Roeland Park.