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San Antonio mayor, council members speak out on climate change plan

San Antonio City Council adopts climate change plan

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio City Council voted 10 - 1 Thursday in favor of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP).

The Alamo City is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. Read more on what that means for the city in KSAT's original story here.

Several city officials, including Mayor Ron Nirenberg, have released statements regarding the CAAP.

San Antonio City Council adopts climate change plan

Read them below:

Mayor Ron Nirenberg

"Today's vote is a critical for the future of our city. In no simpler terms, here and around the world, we are in the midst of a climate emergency.

In San Antonio, we do not need to imagine what climate change looks like, the impacts are already being felt: longer and more intense heat, more frequent and extreme weather events, flooding, extended drought… The economic loss alone is staggering.

In 2017, one of my first acts as Mayor, supported by many of my colleagues on this dais, was to commit San Antonio to the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement -- agreeing to help limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century.

In doing so, we've developed a Climate Action & Adaptation Plan that sets the bold goal of making San Antonio carbon neutral by 2050.

And though the future of our political climate may be fraught with uncertainties, we will commit to chart a path forward for environmental clarity.

A younger generation is calling out to their elected officials, begging for action so they're not left with an irreparable planet.

A future with a better transportation system, more efficient buildings, and 100 percent renewable energy sources is the future for San Antonio.

Moving forward, we will work diligently to implement each and every item found in this plan.

This was not an easy undertaking, so I'd like to thank Doug, Julia and the Office of Sustainability for shepherding a process that at times has been very difficult.

Thanks to the CAAP Steering and Technical Working Group Committees for providing earnest community input on a plan that will provide for a cleaner, healthier San Antonio.

The work has been recognized nationwide through the Bloomberg Philanthropies' American Cities Climate Challenge.

City Council will be diligent in the work to form policies and take initiative from CAAP, and each action will have a cost estimate attached to it.

As a cleaner future evolves for our city, the equity component of this plan -- now nationally recognized -- will ensure that we never take climate action at the expense of our most vulnerable. Ensuring climate action is met with climate justice will provide for the most equitable approach as we move this plan forward.

Soon work will begin to measure and benchmark energy use in municipal and large private buildings throughout San Antonio, help retrofit older buildings to be more energy efficient, complete a plan to run all municipal facilities on 100 percent renewable energy sources, and install permanent citizen oversight through the CAAP Technical and Equity Advisory Committees to provide input as we implement every phase of this plan.

Simply put, CAAP won't have the time to collect any dust.

It is a living document, which will undoubtedly adapt and evolve with emerging technologies and community input.

And just because a strategy is not included in this draft, it doesn't mean it's been excluded from our future. Going forward, everything's on the table. Issues like coal must be addressed, and done so in an equitable manner that does not overburden our community. Those discussions must take place with everyone here in this room and must be clear-headed, data-informed, and transparent.

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. We will act in accordance with the scientific consensus, which tells us that implementing the CAAP limit the impacts of climate change, create jobs, strengthen our economy, and fortify community health and equity.

Also, I will create a council of youth ambassadors so that we never lose your voice as we, and future administrations, work to implement this framework.

Let today mark the start of a better tomorrow for our city."

District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino

"I believe the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan takes the right approach to environmental sustainability by setting actionable and attainable goals that will have a positive long-term impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions without adversely impacting our residents' pocketbooks. The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan promotes initiatives like Under 1 Roof - which has installed almost 600 high-reflectance roofs for qualifying residents - that reduce energy consumption while saving families as much as $2,000 per year.

The way we implement the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan here in the seventh largest city, deep in the heart of Texas will reverberate around the region. Today, San Antonio took a step forward; however, the journey must continue. Meaningful public dialogue centered around key issues like phasing out high-carbon emitting sources like natural gas and coal - especially near vulnerable neighborhoods - must continue. I thank CPS Energy for their involvement in the creation of this plan, and I urge them to make this issue a priority.

Thank you to the residents, working groups, advocacy groups, and businesses for working together with the Office of Sustainability over the last two years to create a plan that is inclusive, feasible, and effective. I appreciate the efforts of the Mayor and my Council colleagues, especially Councilwoman Ana Sandoval. She and her staff deserve recognition for their diligence throughout the development of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

Future generations will look back on today's decision to protect our environment as the day their city drastically improved the quality of life for all residents."

District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez

"The CAAP is a blueprint for strategies tailored to our city that will mitigate the risks of climate change in our community and help protect the populations who are most vulnerable.

This blueprint provides a plan to reduce carbon emissions, gear San Antonio to adapt to a changing climate, and bolster our community's resiliency to anticipated warmer summers and winters, more varied and extreme storms, more frequent heat waves, and potential flooding hazards.

I support this ordinance because it is the byproduct of methodical research and analysis from City staff and partners, community input from residents and organizers, and compromise with myriad stakeholders."

District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda

"Today, we took a huge step forward by passing the City of San Antonio Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. However, the passage of this plan is not the end of our work on climate action – it is just the beginning. The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is a roadmap for our city as we explore the multitude of strategies identified in this plan.

While no plan is perfect, the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is the product of extensive community engagement. Over the past two years, a diverse coalition of stakeholders has developed a framework that ensures our economic prosperity and improves our quality of life. This process included substantial input from the community through more than 350 business, community, and stakeholder events. Because of this outreach, the West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the San Antonio Water System, the San Antonio River Authority, VIA Metropolitan Transit, and CPS Energy have publically endorsed this plan. Our policies are made better when we take the time to truly listen to our community and incorporate their ideas.

I will also stress that the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is data driven and is committed to continuous evaluation, refinement, and measuring of the strategies that we choose to implement. Council must continuously review our progress to know what's working, what's not, and to be ready to make adjustments. This plan provides an adaptable framework that will allow us to implement and adjust policies as new data becomes available and as technology grows.

At the heart of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is an initiative that keeps affordability, sustainability, and conservation at the forefront of the conversation. This plan is focused on ensuring that our actions increase access to opportunity, make services more affordable, and safeguard public health and safety. In fact, our plan is an extension of the efforts already being undertaken by both the public and private sectors. Programs like the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and CPS Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan are perfect examples of how we have worked with partner organizations to prioritize conservation, adaptation, and risk mitigation. We must continue to support and encourage policies like these that reduce our emissions and protect our community.

The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is also committed to protecting our green space. As a lifelong District 6 resident, I can attest to how much our community has changed over the past twenty years. But it is loud and clear that District 6 residents want our city to fight to preserve our green space. As their representative, it is my job to deliver this for them. This plan goes a long way in identifying opportunities to protect our community for future generations.

Adapting to a changing climate is one of the greatest challenges we will face over the next 100 years. Our city must be resilient to protect our local industries, our green space, and our residents' health. Thank you to the hundreds of District 6 residents and business owners for sharing your hopes for and concerns about the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan with the District 6 Team. Today is a major step forward in protecting our neighborhoods, our businesses, and our city, and I remain committed to ensuring each step after today is right for District 6 and San Antonio."

District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan

"We are thrilled to have finally passed the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan as a means to prepare for a more environmentally resilient future. Every individual has the power to create positive change by developing environmentally-friendly habits and routines, and every facet of our government has an equally important role to play in ensuring the future of our world is viable for the generations to come. We owe it to ourselves, to each other, and to our children.

We have heard from the community; we've heard from our leaders; and we've heard from the experts that passing the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan has been a priority. Today we let your voices be heard, and it has been one of the proudest moments I've had on the dais.

Today, we took a stand against environmental injustice, which has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income communities, which greatly make up District 2. This is about communities that are affected by toxic facilities that are placed in their backyards; it's about increasingly dangerous storms that wipe out entire neighborhoods; this is life or death. These are all large-scale concerns that need to be addressed, and we proved today that we are ready.

This is just a start. Moving forward, we will continue to share information, provide resources to the community, mold our own practices to lead by example, and use this as a stepping stone toward the much larger picture.

Thank you to everyone who has played a role in making sure we get this done. Your voice truly matters!"

District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales

"First, I want to thank the citizens who gave of their time and energy to serve on the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) Committee, as well as the citizens who shared their ideas and concerns for the past months at the many community meetings that were held across the city. The community involvement seen during this process is positive evidence of the effort taken to make sure that everyone in our city was heard, and of the fact that when asked, our neighbors will come together to discuss the most important issues we face.

I give my whole-hearted support to the CAAP and urge that it be used as a base of information and activity toward an all-inclusive plan of action. I urge that we be honest with ourselves about the changes that we must make in order for this to be successful, if we're serious about the impact that we have on climate.

In the end, this is not about professional working groups, it's about individual people making choices to improve our environment; it's about the way we move around the city, the way we recycle, it's about water quality and the ordinary things that we do every day in our lives. This is about the choices we make as we plan for highways and land use. This is about changing our city's assumptions and culture, so that we're much less dependent on cars, so that we plan denser and more walkable communities.

The future must involve a shift in the way we live our lives, in the choices and the sacrifices we make every day; it will involve the way we educate our children, green economy jobs and a green new deal, and I look forward to all of those things.

Mostly, though, I look forward to our city making the vital way-of-life changes that will make this CAAP a success."


About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT including the Austin bombings, the mass shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the Dallas police ambush and Hurricane Harvey.