Support, Skepticism on City Council as Revised Climate Plan is Revealed

There was some support and some skepticism on City Council today as San Antonio City Sustainability Director Doug Melnick revealed the new draft of the city's Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Melnick says the new plan includes 28 strategies for San Antonio to be 'carbon neutral' by 2050, in accorance with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. He says the plan is for 88% of that to be accomplished by cutting the city's carbon emissions, and the other 12% by mitigation, like planting more trees.

"For stationery emissions, those are emissions that we can specifically target to a building, transportation emissions, solid waste emissions, emissions that are focused on our water supply," he said.

The revised plan eliminates specific action goals, like the previous draft called for all gasoline powered vehicles to be off the roads by 2050. The new plan encourages and supports the free market development of alternatives to fossil fueled powered vehicles, like setting up a large network of EV charging stations around the city.

But Melnick said the new plan will still involve a buy-in by the city and its residents.

"We need more public awareness, it requires behavior change, it involves investments, and requires technological advancement."

The major change from the first draft it to remove the cost estimates from the plan. Melnick said it is impossible to accurate estimate costs, because it isn't known what new technologies will come along between now and 2050. For example, if the auto industry commits to all EVs by 2050 and those are the only vehicles available by then, the cost to the city of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation will be zero, because that cost will be borne by the industry.

"Climate change is a reality, and we must act to improve prospects for public health, to make our community more resilient, to deal with all impacts of our changing environment,’’ said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “The plan is a giant step forward for San Antonio, but frankly it is the easy part. The plan is a framework that will guide our community in the coming years as we make the difficult policy decisions necessary to implement the plan.”

But Councilman John Courage cautioned that the citizens won't support any plan unless they know what the costs will be.

"What may be the cost to the City of San Antonio, but,more importantly, what will be the cost to the individual citizens of San Antonio," he said.

Councilman Clayton Perry echoed the same concerns.

“The CAAP is being pushed as a ‘framework’ for climate action. While I agree that we all have a stake in protecting the environment, I cannot support a plan with no financial parameters. The City and our surrounding region have a strong track record of investing and responding to climate change to the tune of over $2 billion since 2000. In this version of CAAP, they’ve taken away all projected monetary values for implementing this plan. This framework will inevitably lead to more dollars spent. It’s hard to believe that the CAAP assigns monetary values to ‘the cost of doing nothing,yet the cost of action is unknown. City Council cannot expect our neighbors to write a blank check for the CAAP without knowing what it will take away from our pocketbooks.”

The new plan also allows the goals and the strategies to be revised as the city gets into the operation of the plan, so it can respond to new technologies and new requirements.

Nirenberg has stressed repeatedly that the plan is 'not a mandate,' and the draft plan is a 'starting point' for San Antonio doing what it can to avoid what researches warn will be a hotter, dryer, more inhospitable climate by 2050 if action is not taken to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

Melnick said many of the initiatives in the plan are nothing new, they are already being done, like CPS Energy closing the coal-fired Deeley Power Plant earlier this year and ramping up investments in new technology.

He said the City must take the lead, by increasing its use of electric vehicles and making sure City buildings meet newer, stricter standards for low emissions.

He says there will be numerous opportuniteis for citizens to comment in the plan before it is set to be approved by City Council October 17th.

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