Congratulations to Kansas City, MO for the recent adoption of their Climate Protection and Resiliency Plan! The City already had a strong history of climate action, resulting in carbon emissions reductions of more than 20% between 2005 and 2017. As a continuation of this effort, the City participated in a year-long collaboration with local partners to develop a playbook of how to continue these emissions mitigation efforts on a regional scale.

Throughout this process, equity was brought to the forefront – acknowledging that climate change does not impact all people equally and will likely exacerbate existing racial and economic inequities within the city. To ensure that the implementation of the climate action plan promoted equity across the community, Kansas City committed to an equitable planning process.

What does equity-focused planning look like?

Neighborhood Scale Engagement
This plan built upon the foundation of an existing regional climate plan, allowing the City to focus on plan development from the inside out – starting at a neighborhood scale and emphasizing both engagement and localized implementation. Engagement efforts reached out to residents in neighborhoods across the city to seek their input and participation in developing a plan that improves quality of life, builds prosperity, enhances community resiliency, and promotes climate justice. Neighborhood-level engagement helped the City understand what community members and neighborhood organizations were already doing as well as how to expand that impact. Results were cataloged by area and the plan reflects those priorities.

Climate Justice Workers
Local climate justice workers supported one-on-one and small-scale community engagement efforts, with the goal of engaging community members who do not typically participate in climate action planning efforts. The purpose of these conversations was to understand how climate hazards impact residents’ day-to-day lives as well as priorities around and motivating factors for climate action. These efforts helped to:

  • Capture voices, stories, and real experiences. As part of the prioritization, community members shared personal experiences that impacted their lives drastically, including losing homes, valuables, etc., because of climate change.
  • Collaborate with community members. Workshops and presentations were held in the communities so community members could share their solutions to combating the effects of climate change. Through conversations and understanding, the ‘why’ in solutions shared, and action items, were included in the playbook.
  • Elevate historically marginalized communities. The playbook focuses on communities of color, lower-income individuals, children, the elderly, outdoor workers, immigrants, and refugees – those members of the communities who are most impacted by climate change.

How can communities deliver inclusive and equitable climate planning?

Kansas City’s equity-focused engagement process was designed to listen to community members and tap into local technical expertise. This combination led to impactful solutions that are specific to the Kansas City community. Below are a few key takeaways for other communities to keep in mind when planning their engagement process:

  • Community engagement takes time if you want to genuinely listen and gain trust from community members. The climate justice workers were intentional in their approach – listening more than speaking – to ensure that community members felt comfortable sharing their experiences.
  • This work cannot be done without collaborating with community members. Gathering and trying to understand the differing perspectives and experiences of as many community members as possible is essential to shaping the solutions to the climate problems faced both individually and collectively.

The final plan was adopted by the Kansas City City Council on August 25, 2022 and can be viewed on the City’s website here.