Students celebrate city approval of Austin Climate Equality Plan

Marisa Huerta

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the October 1 flipbook.

UT students and other community members gathered outside City Hall on Thursday to celebrate City Council’s approval of the Austin Climate Equity Plan, which students said includes measures to help counter the effects of climate change.

The plan seeks to overturn environmental policies that have disproportionately affected communities with fewer resources according to a post by Public Citizen Texas, one of the organizers of the rally. The plan also includes a goal to reduce climate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2040 by increasing the number of sustainable buildings and the electrification of transportation.

Penelope Ackling, activism director of Students Fighting Climate Change and who spoke at the rally, said climate equity is an issue that requires urgent action because of its impact on the community,more specifically those in marginalized communities.

“I think it’s really important for young people to stay engaged with climate action, especially (with) something so historic like a climate Equity Plan,”  geography, sustainability and urban studies junior Ackling said. “The plan does a lot around reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating opportunities for Black and brown people.”

The plan intends to create more green jobs as well as entrepreneurship opportunities geared toward marginalized communities, according to the Office of Sustainability.

Ackling said more students should care about climate equity because it affects everyone’s future and will have drastic impacts on natural disasters and weather and temperature over the next 10 years. The Climate Equity Plan is just one governmental decision that could help protect the future of the environment, Ackling said.

“It was just hurricane season, and we went through one of the historically warmest summers that we’ve ever experienced,” Ackling said. “Species are going extinct, and our ecosystems are becoming more and more destabilized.”

Lisette Hotz, a psychology and dance junior who attended the rally, said it’s important to take action for underrepresented communities as they have been the most negatively affected by climate change, especially during February’s winter storm.

“With the snowstorm, so many unhoused people didn’t have a place to go, and I know people literally passed away from (freezing temperatures),” Hotz said. “ I think the housing situation is becoming a bigger problem in Austin, and it’s not going to get better with the fluctuating climate.”

Siva Schwarz, an environmental science junior and member of Students Fighting Climate Change, said City Council’s implementation of this plan is crucial to climate equity because of how it will help impoverished people. 

“A lot of minority groups live in poverty, and when you’re in poverty, there’s no way to protect yourself against climate crises that can pop up,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz said that by educating others about climate change, the organization can work together to create a more sustainable environment for future generations.

“I would like a future, I would like to be breathing clean air and to be able to visit natural wonders of the world,” Schwarz said. “I don’t know if I’m going to have children, but if I do, I would like them to be able to enjoy a clean world.”