Black children are 10 times more likely to visit the emergency room for asthma than white children in St. Louis

In January 2019, the St. Louis Equity Indicators Baseline Report found that “Black children are 10 times more likely to visit the emergency room for asthma than white children.” This environmental justice issue is not only a St. Louis issue: historically marginalized communities are disproportionately likely to live near a toxic emitter nationwide.

St. Louis is committed to achieving 100% renewable energy by 2035. In October 2019, the city released the Pathways to 100% Clean Energy report on how it plans to get there.

Burton discusses the inclusive process used to arrive at the plan. Including Burton and Knott, the Clean Energy Advisory Board was composed of health experts, members of academia, renewable energy experts, social justice advocates, and faith leaders.

Members of the board worked tirelessly to both educate and gather public input through town halls, meetings, and even canvassing at the zoo. The final plan they came up with borrows some components from Atlanta, says Burton, but he stresses the importance of tailoring the plan to the local context. Both Rev. Burton and Knott were pleased with the overall process.

Listen to our Voices of 100 episode with Megan O’Neil, Energy Programs Manager for the City of Atlanta.

Knott believes that St. Louis is already leading in its implementation of clean energy and efficiency initiatives. Large buildings are required to report their energy use to the city, new homes must abide by 2018 building energy codes, and a new 2020 building code will make existing buildings 27% more energy efficient.

ustainability plan for several years. And in fact, this clean energy plan was meant to supplement that.

– Andy Knott

The “Pathways” clean energy plan will build on existing legislation by installing rooftop solar on public buildings, implementing a “pay as you save” model, or even lobbying Missouri officials for better energy policy in the state.

Read our report Investigating City Commitments to 100% Renewable Energy, written by University of Michigan Master’s students in collaboration with ILSR.

Advice on Advancing Goals through Action

Knott’s advice to other cities is to work on inclusivity. Since the climate crisis presents many inequities, cities must approach climate change mitigation with equity in mind. This is done best by including those who have the most at stake. 

Burton seconds the importance of inclusion; the necessity of seeking out voices that are often excluded in the environmental movement. He also discusses the importance of relationship building. This process must begin before the push for legislation, says Burton, to establish trust between partners.

I think that will be appreciated and get to not only the goal of survival and reducing carbon emissions, as well as the transition from old energy to new energy, green energy, but doing so in a way that’s different than before. That all of us can be proud of and look forward to.

– Rev. Rodrick Burton

Episode Notes

See these resources for more behind the story:

For concrete examples of how cities can take action toward gaining more control over their clean energy future, explore ILSR’s Community Power Toolkit.

Explore local and state policies and programs that help advance clean energy goals across the country, using ILSR’s interactive Community Power Map.