Published October 14th, 2020 at 6:00 AM
When it comes to the global fight against a looming climate crisis, cities have a lot of weight to pull.
Due to the autonomy municipal governments have over their own energy policies, as well as their potential to set trends in surrounding areas, cities can play a significant role in the world’s fight against climate change.
A new report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranked 100 major U.S. cities in terms of their progress towards meaningfully reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. The cities included in the 2020 list contain 20% of the nation’s population, and 60% when including their surrounding metropolitan areas.
Kansas City ranked 25th in the annual report, down two spots from last year’s scorecard. St. Louis was the most improved city, climbing eight spots to 28th. Wichita, meanwhile, lagged far behind at 99th.
The ACEEE judges cities in five different categories that contribute how well each city advances towards energy efficiency and renewable power. Overall, Kansas City scored 43.5 out of a possible 100. Here’s the local breakdown by category:
The lowest score on KC’s evaluation, the ACEEE points to the absence of a comprehensive building retrofitting strategy as well as the low number of energy efficient vehicles in the government fleet.
KC’s best-performing category has Bike Walk KC’s Complete Street’s plan to thank. The plan aims to make street design inclusive to walkers, cyclists, children, seniors, the disabled and transit riders.
The city also was lauded for setting goals to increase the urban tree canopy coverage by 40% by 2020 to combat urban heat island effects created by sprawling cities such as ours.
Buildings are one of the biggest emissions contributors in cities. KC gets props for requiring commercial and multi-family buildings to benchmark energy usage annually via the Energy Empowerment Ordinance. But it was also docked points for having relatively few energy efficiency policies for existing buildings compared to peer cities.
Evergy and Spire were namechecked in the report as having low savings as a percentage of sales despite their efficiency programs. Closer partnerships between city government and utility companies were recommended to increase the energy and water efficiency of water services and wastewater treatment plants.
Critiqued for not having a stand-alone sustainable transportation plan, KC recouped some points for its contribution to the regional Transportation Outlook 2040 Plan.
Just 20 of the 100 cities in the report were on track to meet their own greenhouse gas emissions goals. Those goals, when compared to the latest landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, fall far short of the net-zero emissions by 2050 required to avoid 1.5 degrees of warming and, consequently, the most calamitous of climate disaster outcomes.
The energy scorecard project aims to measure progress and maybe spur some friendly competition between cities. But it also serves as a reminder of how far we have to go to meet our goals. Kansas City’s aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from what they were in 2000 by 2050. The ACEEE estimates the city will be 25% below 2000 levels by the end of 2020.
“Many cities are really seizing the moment and embracing policies that help them fight climate change, while too many others are, frankly, doing very little,” said David Ribeiro, director of ACEEE’s lead report author. “We want to show all the cities, even the leaders, the further steps they can take to cut carbon emissions most effectively and equitably.”