Developing Equity-Centered Policies to Reduce Harmful Greenhouse Gas Emissions

January 15, 2022

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FUSE Corps

Kansas City is focused on reaching the goal of becoming a carbon-neutral, equity-focused, and resilient city by 2040. Buildings are one of the largest and fastest-growing sources of Kansas City’s climate emissions. To address these buildings and ensure they are powered with clean energy, Kansas City will partner with FUSE Corps to engage with community stakeholders to co-create an equity-centered Building Performance Standards Ordinance.

This fellowship project begins on April 25, 2022, and ends on April 24, 2023. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of April 25, 2022. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on May 2, 2022. 

PROJECT CONTEXT

The City of Kansas City, like many cities throughout the US, is experiencing the impacts of climate change like never before – through increased temperatures, increased periods of drought, and more frequent flooding. Kansas City generates 18 tons of greenhouse gasses per person (three times the world average) and is expected to see an increase in the annual average temperature of 4°F by mid-century. Pollution continues to degrade outdoor air quality and accelerate this climate change, leaving Black, elderly, sick, and low-income residents – especially those who live in the urban core – more susceptible to hazards such as heat waves and flooding, resulting in lasting health issues or early death. 

In the early 2000s, the Mayor and City Council first committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing the city’s Climate Protection Plan. Because of efforts associated with this plan, Kansas City was able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions for city operations by 26% (below 2005 levels) and reduce community-wide emissions by 24% (below 2005 levels) before the year 2020. In 2020, the City Council passed an additional resolution directing the city to update the original Climate Protection Plan to include new greenhouse gas reduction goals, resiliency, and equity. The updated plan will detail strategies to reduce Kansas City’s contribution to climate change, and approaches to help the community adapt to the climate-related impacts the city is already experiencing. Kansas City is focused on reaching the goal of becoming a carbon-neutral, equity-focused, and resilient city by 2040. Buildings are one of the largest and fastest-growing sources of Kansas City’s climate emissions. Kansas City recognizes that continuing to power the cities buildings with gas and other fossil fuels is an issue of climate justice. 

Kansas City must address these buildings and ensure they are powered with clean energy to reach its ambitious goal. Setting Building Performance Standards is one proven method to cut these emissions and support the transition to clean energy over time. Kansas City will partner with FUSE Corps to engage with community stakeholders to co-create an equity-centered Building Performance Standards Ordinance. The FUSE Executive Fellow will formally outline a framework that sets mandatory greenhouse gas and energy use intensity benchmarks, phasing the performance standards overtime to provide flexibility for building and business owners to choose the technologies or operational strategies that are most cost-effective for them to meet the targets. With the passage of the Ordinance, the Executive Fellow will conduct an education campaign around the new standards and evaluate the feasibility of a compliance fund to support businesses/owners that may qualify for city assistance. This work will ensure that city-wide buildings adopt energy efficiency measures. Reducing emissions through this tool will support Kansas City in curbing the harmful health and climate impacts of fossil fuels in the city.

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the executive fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE fellow and the host agency

Starting in April 2022, it is proposed that the FUSE Executive Fellow will begin to develop a Building Performance Standards Ordinance. The Executive Fellow will consult with City Council, various city departments, local building sector leaders, technical experts, community development corporations, community-based organizations (CBOs), and other stakeholders to understand current energy standards locally and at the state level. During these conversations, the Executive Fellow will also determine what challenges (technical, financial, operational, or otherwise) building owners, managers, and tenants may face in making upgrades to meet potential standards. The Executive Fellow will convene focus groups in partnership with community groups and CBOs to ensure residents are equitably involved in co-creating a policy that will ultimately decrease emissions and support environmental justice. The Executive Fellow will conduct extensive research on other cities’ building performance standards and guidelines, such as St. Louis, Denver, NYC, or Seattle, distilling best practices and lessons learned. 

The Executive Fellow will then draft a Building Performance Standards Ordinance for Kansas City. The ordinance will formally outline a framework that sets mandatory greenhouse gas and energy use intensity benchmarks by building type that decreases over time. Phasing the performance standards over time provides flexibility for building and business owners to choose the technologies or operational strategies that are most cost-effective for them to meet the targets. The Executive Fellow will also ensure the ordinance is designed with an equity lens to accomplish strategic emission reductions and prioritize benefits to the communities particularly vulnerable to climate change. The Executive Fellow will coordinate with the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) Coalition regarding Building Performance Standards to develop the law and support its adoption by City Council. Once passed, this policy will act as a principal tool to help Kansas City accomplish its goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2040.

Concurrently, the Executive Fellow will build out a suite of tools and resources for building and business owners that support their compliance and prepare them to implement the new standards. The Executive Fellow will collect direct feedback on owner/manager readiness to comply and source ideas for what kind of programs the city should offer to help with compliance. The Executive Fellow will utilize these conversations to educate that community on the benchmarks and ways to meet the standards, such as energy efficiency improvements, switching to clean, efficient and electric heating systems, fossil-fuel-free systems, or purchasing clean energy. The Executive Fellow will also evaluate the feasibility of an alternative fund that can be used to support affordable housing/historic properties and in-need business owners in achieving the set performance targets. This will include determining how much Kansas City can contribute to the fund, based on need; what federal funds can be utilized to consistently support the fund or additional incentives that can be leveraged; a framework for qualifying for assistance; and what private and nonprofit partners can support the delivery of the fund.

By April 2023, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following:

  • Conduct a thorough review of the current landscape Conduct an in-depth landscape analysis to understand current energy standards, interview stakeholders to determine the challenges (technical, financial, operational, or otherwise) that building owners, managers, and tenants may face in making upgrades to meet potential standards; identify any barriers that may hinder the passage of the ordinance; research national best practices and benchmarks for success
  • Develop a city-wide Building Performance Standards OrdinanceConduct an inclusive community engagement process to help develop an equitable and effective policy; draft the ordinance, outlining both energy and greenhouse gas emissions performance standards and timelines for compliance; support the mayor’s policy team in passing the ordinance through City Council
  • Build a toolkit of resources for owners/managers – Prepare building and businesses owners to meet targets through educational outreach; support capacity building of building and businesses owners, ensuring they can effectively demonstrate how they’ve implemented or are attempting to implement improvements to reach the new standards; determine a framework for which businesses/owners qualify for city assistance (technical/monetary), ensuring transparency and equity in the selection
  • Leverage financial assets to support complianceDetail the financial commitments and resources required to support in-need owners in meeting outlined targets, plan for leveraging multiple funding streams over time; outline how to successfully utilize the one-time federal funds of the American Rescue Plan/Build Back Better Act dedicated specifically sustainability and resilience

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Executive Sponsor – Andy Savastino, Chief Environmental Officer, Office of Environmental Quality
  • Project Supervisor – Lara Isch, Sustainability Manager, Office of Environmental Quality 

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Approximately 15 years of professional experience in policy or program development; background in various kinds of energy policy highly preferred
  • Strong technical background in energy or utilities financing
  • Passion for environmental sustainability issues or interest in alternative energies
  • Experience working in politically charged environments, prowess in managing delicate situations or stakeholders with patience
  • Robust community engagement skills, relating to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Humility, flexibility, adaptability, persistence, having thrived in high-pressure and complex environments
  • Strong record of success in stakeholder engagement, using facilitative leadership techniques to manage and coordinate stakeholder activities
  • Ability to effectively present policy and financial recommendations, involving and investing a wide range of audiences with varying perspectives
  • Easily able to pivot and create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with ease in public presentations
  • Ability to synthesize complex from a variety of sources information into clear and concise recommendations
  • A self-motivated, goal-oriented, and entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity
FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.
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