Getting to Zero: The Austin Community Climate Plan

Austin Community Climate Plan

Last year, Austin’s City Council made a big decision. They decided to go zero.

In this podcast, AEN Editor Amy Stansbury looks into the goal set by Austin City Council to make Austin a carbon-neutral community by the year 2050. She explores what it will take for Austin to truly get to zero greenhouse gas emissions, taking a deep dive into the new Austin Community Climate Plan

 

Produced with input from dozens of community leaders across a variety of different disciplines and sectors, the plan lays out a blueprint for the city to reach its carbon goals. The Office of Sustainability presented the plan to the council committee on Open Space, Environment, and Sustainability on Wednesday. At the meeting, the committee was supposed to take a vote deciding whether or not to bring the plan up for a vote before the entire city council. However, Council Member Don Zimmerman (District 6) abruptly left the meeting before a vote could take place, breaking the quorum needed to move the plan along to the full council. A bit of procedural maneuvering ensued and with help from several other city council members (Leslie Pool, Kathie Tovo, Greg Casar, Ann Kitchen) as well as Mayor Steve Adler, the plan is moving forward to seek approval from the entire city council at their next meeting on Thursday, June 4th. A resolution to approve the plan is now #49 on the city council agenda

Here’s exactly what city council will be voting for if they approve the plan: 

  • A reaffirmed commitment to achieve citywide net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as well as a target path to get to net-zero by 2050 including interim targets for 2020, 2030, and 2040, while allowing for up to 10 percent of carbon offsets for all targets
  • The implementation of the following key recommendations within one year of the plan’s approval:
    • Explore financing mechanisms to enable energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation, and energy storage.
    • Increase efforts to engage customers to drive energy efficiency and demand response. Increase transparency of energy costs in multi-family and commercial buildings. Evaluate the feasibility of neighborhood-wide energy efficiency challenges.
    • Begin a coordinated effort to prioritize strategic development and evolution of smart grid technologies to allow for further integration of renewables into the grid. 
    • Support efforts to work with large employers and academic institutions to expand the use of carpools, vanpools, and alternative transportation amongst their employees.
    • Support programs that help commuters make the first and last mile of their trip, such as free circulator buses, vanpool services, and folding bicycles.
    • Expand electric vehicle infrastructure throughout the city and pursue code options to increase “charger ready” parking.
    • The city should adopt procurement specifications for material reuse, reduced packaging, materials with recycled content, and locally manufactured products, while encouraging others to follow suite.
    • Encourage eligible landfills in Travis County to participate in EPA landfill methane outreach voluntary programs.
    • Ensure that businesses affected by the Universal Recycling Ordinance maximize diversion of organics and recyclable materials.
    • Determine the feasibility of a local carbon investment and trading program, ensuring efficient carbon reduction and securing a possible funding mechanism for greenhouse gas reduction projects in low income neighborhoods.
    • Determine the feasibility of a carbon impact statement that could be used to inform policy makers of the greenhouse gas emission impacts of major city decisions. 
    • Develop an implementation plan for all remaining Phase 1 action items, as identified in the plan.
    • Invest in continued climate resilience planning efforts by obtaining additional detailed climate projections for Central Texas.
  • A request to the City Manager to identify and prioritize any resources needed to implement the above recommendations and include this information in the 2015 – 2016 budget allocation process. 
  • The creation of a Joint Sustainability Committee consisting of members from several different environmental boards and commissions. This new committee will review all city policies that are relevant to the Austin Community Climate Plan, including implementation of the plan and community engagement.

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