January 23 2014

Kansas City, Missouri’s Mayorial Climate Action Plan

Currently there is no universal agreement on the degree, cause, or the severity of climate change. There is, however, a significant agreement on the rise of global emissions due to the quantitative aspects of measures and their contribution to these changes. Regional industries are all highly impacted by climatological change or are subject to likely regulatory or policy changes. Local companies, for example, may incur costs which help them comply with the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions in mitigating climate change.

Policy makers and regulators make value judgements on how to react to this data by designing policies and regulations that affect aggregate behavior and responses. In Kansas City, MO, there is no difference. In 2006, the Mayor of Kansas City, Mark Funkhouser worked on a Climate Protection Plan, pledged as part of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Center under the Environmental Management Commission. A committee of eleven community leaders was appointed to develop the Climate Protection Plan to guide these urban efforts in Kansas City, saving millions of taxpayer dollars while boosting real estate values and of course “creating jobs.” But how pragmatic are these approaches?

KCMO Energy Usage Sources

KCMO Energy Usage Sources

GHG Emissions from Energy Sources in Kansas City

GHG Emissions from Energy Sources in Kansas City

Sectoral and industry leaders have to take information from both climatologists and policy makers and turn it into corporate practice or key public milestones. The relationship between these three groups is symbiotic – there is a necessary give and take of information and data to improve the process of policy making and implementation, and this may have been lacking in the case of Kansas City. This exchange should theoretically lead to improved understanding of all facets of decision-making processes for all three groups of climate change constituents.

City of Kansas City, MO

Further research at the city level should also aim to bring academic scholars, policy makers, and industry leaders to discuss the state of climate policy, advance the policy-making agendas at the state and regional levels, and design appropriate response at the industry and company levels. This will be crucial for Kansas City, since both the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and City of Kansas City have passed complementary resolutions to address climate change, a 180 member goal to reduce emissions by 30% by 2020. Despite best efforts to reduce emissions, recent studies have shown that emissions are still on the rise and will be at an all-time high by 2020.

Emissions in Kansas City (Yearly Data and 2020 Projections)

Emissions in Kansas City (Yearly Data and 2020 Projections)

Additionally, there is also a need for a broad, far-reaching, and multi-faceted outreach and education program to help citizens understand the problem, the urgency of taking action, and what they can do. There is also a need for a narrative of scenario specific perceived risks, opportunities, cost of living implications, public policy implications shaped by environmental justice and climate impact mitigation strategies. The risks and strategies inherent in each scenario should be assessed across the various sectors while the scenarios themselves should be suggested as likely potentials relative to regional weather variability, projection of societal reactions to climate related disruption and local momentum to address the issue.

So the issue begs the question: Should one group, such as the City or County, take a more aggressive approach to reducing emissions? Does it make sense to put a cap on emissions, or is it already too late? Does a cap put a negative effect on regional economic development, and hence on job creation and financial sustainability?

Credits: Data linked to sources. Images by Nathan Zoschke. Graphs by Sunny Sanwar.

Sunny Sanwar

Sunny Sanwar originates from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kansas and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Sunny is also a Columnist for the Daily Star, the largest English newspaper in Bangladesh, and is currently working in local government at Jackson County, Missouri. This multicultural and interdisciplinary background gives him a holistic understanding of socially sensitive issues in energy and environment around the world. His graduate dissertation thesis in Public Policy dealt with local level emissions reduction strategies. His 2008 "efficiency over performance" project called the KU Ecohawks, aimed for urban transportation to not rely on conventional fossil fuel sources that pollute the local and global environment, but instead run on local wastes. Completely off grid, the mono-crystalline solar cell powered workspace charged the cars, with no energy taken from the main power lines. He also founded the Sustainable Built Environment Initiative in his native Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, which was renamed Bangladesh Green Building Council (BGBC) in 2011, when it became the national representative of Bangladesh, as part of the World Green Building Council in Toronto, Canada. Supported by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fellows, the council provides a centralized national board for green building certifications, courses and outreach, as well as consultancy services to private construction firms, think tanks and government initiatives.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 at 9:49 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Energy, Engineering, Environment, Environmental Design, Government/Politics, Housing, Infrastructure, Social/Demographics, Sunny Sanwar, Technology, Transportation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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One Response to “Kansas City, Missouri’s Mayorial Climate Action Plan”

  1. Brent Says:

    If there had been leadership on these issues in the past, we would be much further along that we are towards creating a clean-energy and environmentally sustainable economy. As long as the vast majority of the economy is based upon polluting technologies, then unless you are going to replace the dirty jobs with clean jobs somebody is going to get hurt. What we need is a clean economy transition program that replaces dirty technology with clean technology. Not sure if a carbon tax is going to help, but it might. These are very complicated issues, to be sure, and so it is reasonable to suppose that the solutions will be pluralistic, and not monolithic.

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