Prairie Village may commit to plan that puts city on path to zero carbon emissions by 2040

Prairie Village carbon emissions

Prairie Village will soon formally consider committing to the United Nations' "Cities Race to Zero" campaign, which calls on cities to target a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and to pledge to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by the 2040s. File photo.

The city of Prairie Village will soon consider committing to a UN-backed campaign aimed at getting cities, local governments and other institutions to take “rigorous and immediate action” against climate change.

Specifically, Prairie Village is considering a commitment to the UN’s ‘Cities Race to Zero,’ an initiative that urges cities to strive towards reducing their carbon emissions by 50% by the year 2030, according to city documents.

Councilmember Ian Graves introduced the item this week to the city council committee of the whole — prior to discussing it with the council’s environmental committee — because, he noted, the city must enter into the commitment by the end of the month.

Graves said there are some things the city is already doing, like building a LEED Platinum certified public works facility. The ‘Race to Zero’ initiative also offers a toolkit to help develop further plans, he said.

“The commitment is complementary to what we’re already doing,” Graves said. “The city is already signed on with the Mayor’s Climate Accord and Climate Action KC. I’d note — and I believe the mayor knows this — the Mayor’s Climate Accord just recently, I think at the end of September, endorsed cities signing onto the ‘Cities Race to Zero’ so there’s a lot of interplay with these campaigns.”

Prairie Village Mayor Eric Mikkelson was one of nearly 470 mayors of American cities who have signed the Climate Accord, agreeing to uphold the goals set forth by the Paris Climate Agreement. 

A ‘race’ to zero carbon emissions by 2040s

If the city approves the “Race to Zero” initiative, it would be publicly endorsing the following, as outlined in city documents:

  • The city recognizes “the global climate emergency.”
  • Prairie Village’s commitment to help keep the global heating level below the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degrees Celsius goal.
  • A commitment to put “climate action at the center of all urban decision-making, to create thriving and equitable communities for everyone.”
  • A pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions in the 2040s or sooner. This comes with the task of developing a roadmap to achieve net zero carbon emissions in municipal buildings by 2030.

Additionally, the city would commit to developing financial support programs to encourage “building-scale renewables and mandate the use of renewables through building codes,” according to city documents.

Council discussion

Some councilmembers, like Ward 4 member Courtney McFadden, expressed concerns about the burden the “Race to Zero” commitment could place on staff.

McFadden said she’s supportive of the commitment overall but wanted to know who would be handling the grunt work of getting the city to achieve initiatives aimed at lowering the city’s carbon emissions.

Most of the work such as annual reporting and ordinance writing to achieve these goals would be conducted by the environmental committee, Graves said. Still, city staff may be involved in some of this work, he admitted.

Others like Councilmember Jori Nelson said the city needs to focus on other, tangible climate action efforts such as curbside composting and banning plastic bags — a proposal Nelson and Councilmember Tucker Poling reintroduced to the city council in 2020.

Mikkelson said he sees the advantages of the “Race to Zero” commitment and says it goes beyond other commitments the city has made in the past.

He said the commitment can assess the “one-off” sustainability programs and initiatives the city begins.

“The new tools that this provides and the accountability, the matrix, the deadlines, will assist us in putting all of that into context and prioritizing,” Mikkelson said. “So when we do get the baseline data from Dynamhex, we have targets and goals and a framework to assess that and to know what to do with it and to know what to prioritize, how quickly and when.”

Prairie Village contracted with Kansas City-based Dynamhex in 2020 to track the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The council committee of the whole unanimously approved moving consideration of the commitment forward.

The city council will formally consider committing to the “Race to Zero” plan at a future city council meeting.