City, UTSA Researchers to Begin Creating Formal Climate Action Plan

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Traffic on Highway 281 in San Antonio.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Cars travel along U.S. Highway 281 in San Antonio.

University of Texas at San Antonio researchers will spend more than a year formulating a climate mitigation and adaptation plan for the City of San Antonio. The research is being funded by a $500,000 CPS Energy research grant.

Researchers will attempt to quantify the city’s carbon emissions and identify to what degree those emissions need to be reduced and mitigated. They will outline what steps the City of San Antonio can take to reduce its municipal emissions, and what the city, its industries, and residents could do to adjust to a changing climate.

“That [adaptation portion] is acknowledging there is scientific consensus that climate change is occurring,” said Doug Melnick, the city’s chief sustainability officer. “We’ll be conducting localized climate projections. … We’ll be utilizing available data to conduct localized climate projections to understand our probable future climate impacts.”

The City of San Antonio will host a kickoff event Dec. 7 at UTSA’s Downtown Campus to give officials from the City, UTSA and CPS Energy the opportunity to outline their project plans. Community members also will have the opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions on the plan’s scope. Melnick said that the City wants to take an equitable approach to the process and assure that the city’s most vulnerable populations are considered.

On Thursday, City Council formally approved the agreement among CPS Energy, UTSA, and the City’s Office of Sustainability to develop the plan.

“This vote is a crucial step to toward developing the framework for a local action plan to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg stated. “The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is important. If we don’t get this right, our children will inherit a city that’s ill prepared for its climate and economic future.”

This isn’t the first effort by the city to create more sustainable environmental policies and practices, but unlike other initiatives, the plan will focus specifically on addressing such climate concerns as greenhouse gas emissions. This focus was illustrated by the City Council’s resolution passed in June to support the Paris climate accord.

“The fact is, climate is a big scary word,” Melnick said. “I think the goal is to bring the community and all the different stakeholders together and start really having a frank conversation about what the realities are.”

Mayor Ron Nirenberg with CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams following the signing a resolution in support of the Paris Agreement.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Mayor Ron Nirenberg (center) shakes hands with CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams (right) after signing a resolution in support of the Paris Agreement on climate.

Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7), who chairs the Council’s Community Health and Equity Committee, said the issues San Antonians face from threats associated with climate changs have a direct impact on their overall quality of life.

“When it comes to climate change, clean air, climate adaptation, it comes down to protecting community health,” said Sandoval. “That’s why we’re doing it, not because we’re the stereotypical environmental vigilantes.”

The City charged UTSA’s Texas Sustainable Energy Institute with proposing the approach for the plan. The institute states that the final product of the research will be a strategy document outlining measures and policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions based on a reduction target, providing strategies to adapt and build resilience to changing climates.

To download the institute’s proposed approach for developing the climate plan, click here.

Part of the work involved in developing the plan is getting the city’s stakeholders involved and committed to creating action.

“Plans, rules, whatever we do, they only work if the stakeholders are at the table when we develop them,” Sandoval said. Those stakeholders include individuals, community groups, and members of the business and industrial sectors.

“We want to have those [planning] conversations directly with those stakeholders,” Sandoval said. “There won’t be any draconian measures. We can definitely get there with a collaborative process.”

Sandoval will speak at the Dec. 7 event alongside keynote speaker Katharine Hayoe, a climate scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. Individuals interested in attending the event may register here.

This article was originally published on Dec. 1, 2017.

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