Key Principles Around Climate Action
The last comprehensive climate action plan for Kentucky to come from the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet dates back to 2011. Since that time the state has produced more limited reports on climate and environmental impacts relating to items such as the Clean Power Plan, a federal climate initiative dating back to 2015.
Local agencies, local nonprofits and national organizations with local ties have produced aspirational climate plans as late as 2016. Many of these plans focus primarily in the energy sector.
The Kentucky Conservation Committee, working with strategic partners, has outlined key steps for climate action in Kentucky, broadly including these areas:
- Buildings, Cities and Towns
- Land Use: Wildlands
- Land Use: Food and Agriculture
- Energy Transformation (Power and Fuel)
- Water Infrastructure
Our framework is built around the consensus targets of most conservation NGOs, which involve systematic reductions in emissions in the electric sector, emission reductions in the transportation sector, and adopting more sustainable and efficient practices in agriculture, and sustainable development of cities, towns, the business sector and materials usage, eventually leading to an 80% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050. We also have built our recommendations around research from resources such as Project Drawdown a ranking of the most effective climate tactics, and other research and resources, to assess which recommendations may have the best impacts applicable to Kentucky.
Why This Guide is Needed:
The future of our planet is at a critical point: We must reach 80% reduction in greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 to keep global temperature increases under 2°C (3.6°F). While most efforts toward this goal have been focused on reducing fossil fuel use, new science shows natural climate solutions—based on the conservation, restoration and management of forests, grasslands and wetlands—can deliver up to 37% of the needed emission reductions by 2030. Combined with wider adoption of renewable energy and other technologies, natural climate solutions are essential to keeping our climate safe.
We are already at a stage where changes must be made, in any way we can, right now. According to NASA’s Climate Change research division, CO2 levels are already over 400 parts per million (most agree that levels need to be reduced to 350ppm) and global temperatures have already risen 1.8 degrees Farenheit since 1880.
The effects of climate change are already evident, most notably in the form of more regular droughts, wildfires and flooding. Kentucky cities that border waterways, such as Louisville, have already begun experiencing more frequent flooding along the Ohio River. And even cities that are not bound by waterways, such as Lexington, are already taking measures to adapt their infrastructure to address the increase of water runoff into storm sewers, using massive wet weather storage tanks, permeable pavement, and other flood mitigation projects to slow water runoff from increasingly frequent storm surges.
The guidance in KCC’s Key Steps booklet and this companion website are guided by these goals:
- Internalize the real costs of carbon pollution via laws or regulations.
- Phase out subsidies that increase climate risks, e.g., tax incentives for fossil fuel extraction or subsidized flood insurance.
- Provide government investment into and incentives for research and development; resilient infrastructure; and education and workforce redevelopment to support a clean energy transition.
- Lower regulatory and financing barriers to clean energy projects.
- Assist Kentuckians most vulnerable and least able to protect themselves against unstoppable physical and economic climate impacts.
- Evolve to an efficient and clean energy economy in ways that do not leave impacted communities behind.
- Protect against floods, drought and other unavoidable climate impacts.
- Adopt policies that leave family farms more sustainable and resilient.
- Provide incentives for carbon sequestering within our natural lands.
- Plan efficient new development and redevelopment, e.g., efficient buildings accessible via walking, bicycling and public transit. Reduce energy costs through new technologies, more efficiencies, including the rehab of older residential units.
- Provide government investmentint and incentives for research and development; resilient infrastructure; and education and workforce redevelopment to support a clean energy transition.
Our Principles in Working With Communities:
Research from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication shows that a majority of voters in Kentucky understand that climate change is not only real, but that something must be done about the problem. And, almost as importantly, they now understand that those coal jobs that politicians promised to bring back will not be returning. Link here
The Kentucky Conservation Committee was founded in the mid-70s as a collaborative where organizations and citizens could come together from their different interests to find common ground and discuss and act on what is important to them in the conservation spectrum.
Starting with four core conservation organizations, we now partner with over two dozen groups and coalitions to address the needs of frontline communities. Today, it is understood that what is common to most conservation issues is a fundamental recognition that citizens have a right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. And we believe that much of what will drive our progress is through citizens of each community having direct engagement on these issues. KCC believes in lifting up the voices of those who are directly affected by the impacts of pollution and the impacts of having less-than-representative democracy.
There are several excellent writings that capture some of these fundamental principles. KCC subscribes to the Jemez Principles of Democratic Organizing as a philosophy for ensuring that local communities have a voice in their own communities. The basic principles are:
- Be Inclusive
- Emphasize Bottom-Up Organizing
- Let People Speak for Themselves
- Work Together in Solidarity and Mutuality
- Build Just Relationships Among Ourselves
- Commit to Self-Transformation
- Building Local Living Economies
- Zero Waste
- Regional Food Systems
- Public Transportation
- Clean Community Energy
- Efficient, Affordable, Durable Housing
- Ecosystem Restoration and Stewardship
- Building Community Resilience
- Grassroots Economies
- Rights to Land, Water, Food Sovereignty