Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Taking steps today, for tomorrow: Austin City Council reorganizes climate change investment plan

Breyona Mitchell

The Austin City Council approved a resolution on Feb. 15 authorizing the reorganization of the city’s current climate initiatives to make them more manageable — a change the Council said is “urgent” in the city’s fight against climate change.

Brought forward by Council Member Ryan Alter, the proposal will group the city’s goals for clean water, air and energy from its former climate plans — including the Climate Equity Plan, Water Forward and One Austin: Climate Resilience Action Plan — into a single overarching program for the city to reach its original climate goals on schedule.

“An umbrella is a good way to think about it,” Alter said. “We are pulling all of our plans together where there is some overlap, but there’s also a lot of very different elements, figuring out what it takes to meet those goals.” 

Olga Tumanova, a director for Students Fighting Climate Change, said the city should be more active in sticking to its previous goals to reduce harmful effects on the environment. 

“I don’t know how we can have the climate equity plan in place and at the same time, be creating new fossil fuel burning plants,” environmental science sophomore Tumanova said. “The city needs to push back more on projects like (the I-35 expansion), and bring attention to a lot of environmental justice issues.” 

The new resolution will now reaffirm the city’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2040, per the 2021 Austin Climate Equity Plan. Alter said the resolution directs city staff to find where Austin has fallen short of its goals and potential investments to reach them.

“We are going to invest in having clean air, having clean water and being able to enjoy green spaces and go out,” Alter said. “We can either spend (money) now and have an environment we want to enjoy, or we can spend it later to try to remediate some of the harms we’ve caused.” 

To fund the new resolution, Alter said the Council is looking at including the new, overarching plan in its budget proposal this summer or holding a bond election. Despite the city grouping the plans under one “umbrella,” the council must allocate resources to each of the individual, pre-existing initiatives. 

The Council received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Feb. 12, where it will allocate funds for three climate initiatives, including the Priority Action Climate Plan. In this plan, Austin will partner with neighboring counties such as Williamson, Hays and Bastrop, Alter said.

Zach Baumer, the city’s interim chief sustainability officer, said the end goal of the city’s climate programs is for Austin to become stronger and more equitable. Both Baumer and Alter said that access to climate-related remedies remains inconsistent across Austin and emphasized the importance of improving the quality of life through local investment. 

“We’re trying to improve the quality of life, the sustainability and the resiliency of Austin, and the people who live here,” Alter said.

Tumanova said students should be compassionate about the climate crisis, even if they do not reside in areas of the city with health hazards. As environmental issues become more severe, she hopes for students to maintain awareness about the crisis and the current decision-making, as they will impact Generation Z’s future.

“For change to happen in the future, we can’t just think that it’s going to magically occur by itself — hard work needs to be put in, day-in day-out, to plan,” Tumanova said. “Because of the steps we’re taking today, (the world’s) easier to live in tomorrow.”

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About the Contributor
Breyona Mitchell, Associate Comics Editor
Breyona is a sophomore english and studio art double major from Houston, Texas. Currently, they work as the associate comics editor and has previously drawn for the paper as a senior artist. They love playing video games with their friends.