SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio now has a plan for climate change that aims to get the city to carbon neutral by 2050.
The council voted 10-1 to adopt the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP). District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry placed the lone vote against the plan.
CAAP is the result of nearly two years of work following the council voting in June 2017 to support the Paris climate agreement. It focuses on strategies for how to both prepare for the effects of climate change and to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions.
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The plan's adoption does not mean all of the strategies go into effect immediately. The implementation process laid out in the plan mentions analysis for costs and equity, among other considerations.
"Any ordinance, rule, regulation or policy will be reviewed, and approved, if required, by the City Council after providing sufficient opportunities for stakeholders and the general public to review such policy or regulation," according to the plan.
"Moving forward, we'll work diligently to implement each and every item found in this plan," said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who also called CAAP a "living document" that "wont have any time to collect any dust."
The plan calls for reassessment and updates every three to five years.
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The goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 does not mean that the city will produce no emissions but that those it produces will be offset by technologies or methods that negate the emissions that are produced.
During public comment, several people speaking to the council voiced concerns about CPS Energy's continuing use of coal as a fossil fuel.
Though the plan mentions an "aggressive focus on eliminating coal sources" as a mitigation strategy, there is no mandate included to do so.
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CPS Energy's two coal plants, Spruce 1 and Spruce 2, produce almost 18.3% of its current generating capacity according to its website. The utility says the plants could last through 2047 and 2060, respectively, and there's no plan currently to retire them early.
District 9 Councilman John Courage said he hopes CPS Energy finds a way to shut the older Spruce 1 Plant by 2025 and Spruce 2 by 2030.
"To do that, we find, develop and invest in the alternatives, including the transitional source of natural gas to replace coal during the interim while we're waiting for the successful development of the battery technology that will enable us to use solar, wind and other alternative energy sources daily without worrying about them being available," Courage said.
Nirenberg said that just because a strategy was not included in the draft of the plan, that doesn't mean it will be excluded from the city's plan in the future.
"Going forward, everything is on the table. Issues like coal must be addressed and done so in an equitable manner that does not overburden our community," the mayor said.
"We must begin now to publicly analyze the cost of accelerating renewable energy sources into San Antonio's portfolio while ending the use of coal."
While Nirenberg said the costs to which he was referring were "not just in dollar signs," there was also discussion about cost.
Some in the audience raised concerns over the cost of implementing the strategies in the plan, and District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry said the lack of prices in the plan was behind his lone "no" vote.
Even the co-chairman of the plan's steering committee, Dr. Olufemi Osidele, noted that, "at present, the CAAP is short on prices."
"So, is the CAAP incomplete? Yes. Could it be done better? Yes. But are these sufficient reasons not to adopt the CAAP today? Absolutely not," Osidele said. "That would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater."