Douglas County commissioners approve climate action plan

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Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday approved a climate action plan intended to help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Commissioners first held a work session with Kim Criner Ritchie, sustainability manager, and Jamie Hofling, sustainability impact analyst.

The plan breaks subject matter into four sections: energy, mobility, living systems and thriving community.

It identifies a number of goals and action steps to take. A few of the 14 goals included in the plan are “Reduce energy consumption while increasing access to renewable sources”; “Respect and protect the diverse ecology of Douglas County and its contributions to natural resilience”; “Protect quality, capacity, and functionality of vital water resources and landscapes”; and “Prepare our community to address increased and compounded health risks due to a changing climate.”

The plan also helps quantify and measure things the county could put in place so those environmental impacts can be considered in other planning and budgeting processes going forward.

As one example, if Douglas County were to retrofit 5% of existing housing units and commercial buildings per year to be 20% more efficient, along with some other changes, we could cut our emissions 38.5% by 2030, according to the plan.

“We offer this scenario — which we are obviously not on track for, given the time parameters — not as a concrete target, but as a tangible example of the modeling that we’ll be able to do once we implement measurable actions such as these and are able to calculate based on real-time data and progress,” Criner Ritchie said.

Commissioner Patrick Kelly noted that the plan gives a direction, but it is not an actual policy that is in place and there is no budgetary commitment tied to it. The commission’s approval does not create any new codes.

Commissioners approved the climate action plan on a 3-0 vote.

Learn more about the plan and process at

Commissioners also approved legal findings of fact in conjunction with their approval of a conditional use permit for the Kansas Sky Energy Center.

The commission initially approved the permit during a special meeting on April 13. The agenda item this week was just formalizing for the record the conditions as commissioners had already approved them.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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