Lawrence City Commission receives Climate Action Plan update, thanks sustainability staff

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The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday received an update from city staff about the progress of the Climate Action Plan and expressed excitement about moving it forward.

The Climate Action Plan is a joint effort between the city and Douglas County to address and protect the community against potential climate change risks. The plan is in its community input phase right now, and feedback from this phase will influence the shaping of the concrete plan this winter before it goes before the city and county for potential adoption in the spring of 2022. It will also be influenced by the Regional Climate Plan for the Kansas City metro, which Douglas County was invited to participate in.  

Although the adoption of the city’s comprehensive Plan 2040 in 2019 was a “call to action” in regards to climate change, Sustainability Director Jasmin Moore told commissioners that many Lawrence residents have been prioritizing and working on climate change resilience for decades. The plan will be formed with an equity framework, with the community’s most vulnerable at the forefront. Socioeconomic and health inequities often go hand in hand, she said, pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic as an example.  

“We know that the consequences of climate change are going to impact everyone,” Moore said. “But we also know that frontline communities will be hit first and worst, and their ability to adapt to and recover from these conditions are limited. We saw this — and we’re still seeing this — with the impacts of (COVID-19).” 

As part of the community engagement phase, residents can provide their feedback on addressing climate through the county’s engagement survey, which went live in September. Sustainability staff is also seeking climate ambassadors, who will engage in service projects or discussions to gather stories and feedback about how climate change impacts the community.

In addition, the Sunrise Project has hired 10 community coordinators who will work part-time from August to January engaging with frontline communities in Lawrence about the climate-related challenges they face.  

Commissioners thanked Moore for the work that’s gone into the Climate Action Plan so far. Vice Mayor Shipley noted that Lawrence’s geographical circumstance is an important factor in how it’s impacted by climate change. The plan should focus on carbon emissions, she said, but it should also consider how land use and road construction could be more sustainable.  

Commissioner Lisa Larsen commended the direct roles that are available to community members who want to help, saying that sometimes residents don’t realize how large of a role they have in combating climate change. She noted that Lawrence residents have the option to switch to renewable energy in their homes through Evergy’s renewable subscription programs. Moore noted that renters, too, can take advantage of those options.

The Climate Action Plan is not one of “doom and gloom,” Moore told commissioners, but more of a call to action for steps that prevent further climate change-related disasters if they’re taken immediately, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

“We can take action now and our children and the generations that come after us will see the direct impacts,” Moore said. “Hopefully, as we make really responsible choices, they will see the benefits of the choices that we make.” 

Find more information about the Climate Action Plan here

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