Most Council members favored the City’s newly revamped climate plan after changes were made that stripped some of the most controversial ideas. However, one Council member still took issue with the language.
The full Council heard its first briefing on the plan’s new draft during a meeting Thursday, which offered a glimpse into how members other than the plan’s chief proponents, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7), are receiving the document.
The previous version, released in January, was explicit about what it would take to reach the City’s goal of being carbon-neutral by 2050. The new draft includes broader language and entirely drops cost estimates that caused an outcry among some of the plan’s critics. It does so while maintaining the same goal of carbon neutrality, meaning the city would take in or offset as many of the global warming greenhouse gas emissions as it emits within three decades.
To achieve those goals, the plan proposes shifting CPS Energy, the City’s municipally owned electric and gas utility, away from fossil fuels and to help accelerate the move to carbon-free vehicles, among many other climate solutions.
Despite the changes, Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) said at the meeting that he can’t support the current plan’s draft, calling it an “alarmist type of document.” He criticized the removal of cost estimates when the issue of cost had been a holdup for many residents, businesses, and business groups.
“I’m very disappointed, right at the outset,” Perry said, describing cost estimates in the previous version as “basically worthless, but they were something.”
“I guess the answer to that was, ‘Well, let’s take it completely out of the plan,’” Perry continued. “That’s not the right direction to go on this.”
Opposing the climate plan is not a new position for Perry. In 2017, he cast the lone no vote against a City Council resolution that committed the City to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.
Perry also has questioned the conclusions of scientists who say humans are responsible for a rapidly changing climate. At a July forum organized by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free-market think tank, Perry said he’s “not a climate change denier.”
“I think the science is there that says the climate is changing,” Perry said then. “When has it not changed, is my question.”
Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) so far seems to be the only council member whose position has shifted. In February, Pelaez said he could not support the first draft of the plan because of the opposition it generated among employers in his district.
But at Thursday’s meeting, he said he’s “satisfied” with the City’s effort to engage residents and businesses. He added that it’s a sign of a strong “consensus document” that neither those who want aggressive climate action nor those who think climate change isn’t an issue are entirely happy with the new draft.
“I don’t think anybody is going to say this is a perfect document,” Pelaez said, “That’s OK, because we’re not going to let perfection be the enemy of the good in this instance.”
He also decried the “AM radio shock jocks” who attack the plan as “very exotic, out of the ordinary, absurd, choose your hyperbolic adjective.” He read off a list of major corporations implementing their own climate actions, including Toyota, Marriott Hotels, Microsoft, United Airlines, Chevron, Union Pacific, AT&T, and others.
“Apparently, they didn’t get the memo that this is terrible for business,” Pelaez continued. “Or, people who are decrying this just as bad for business, across the board, with a very broad brush, have no idea what they’re talking about.”
Of the three council members elected for the first time in June, none seemed opposed to its adoption.
Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6) called the plan “important and lasting work.” Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4) asked whether it could be updated more frequently than every three to five years, as proposed. Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2) discussed implementing some of the specifics immediately, such as planting more trees and adding more community gardens to her district.
A public comment period on the final draft begins Thursday and closes on Sept. 6 and on Aug. 28, the plan is set to go before the Planning Commission and again for a vote on Sept. 11.
On Sept. 20, the City Council’s Community Health and Equity Committee, led by Sandoval, also will discuss the plan. Council will discuss it again at an Oct. 2 B session meeting ahead of its scheduled Oct. 17 final vote.