This afternoon, Austin City Council passed a resolution establishing a community wide goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This is one of the most ambitions emissions reduction goals in the world and was passed in response to the recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s (IPCC) most recent reports, which indicate that climate change is progressing more rapidly than projected.
The resolution will set in motion a process of updating the city’s current Climate Protection Plan to include all emissions from the Austin community, not only those from city departments – a major improvement over the existing Austin Climate Protection Plan.
The resolution also acknowledged that cutting emissions in the near term will have greater impact on reducing climate change, than emissions cuts closer to the 2050 deadline. This is because carbon dioxide emissions will continue to impact the global climate centuries after they enter the atmosphere.
The ultimate goal of having net zero greenhouse gas emissions was established to ignite creative ideas in the community and to serve as an inspiration to other cities. Austin has long been considered a leader in renewable energy and other environmental efforts, but Council recognized that other cities were now establishing more aggressive emissions reductions targets and took this opportunity to help Austin maintain its leadership role.
The resolution called for public participation in developing the new Austin Climate Protection Plan and established that boards and commissions, as well as other technical advisory groups should be consulted. The first deadline established in the resolution is September 1, 2014, when the City Manager will be responsible for presenting City Council with a framework for meeting short and long term emissions reductions goals. The final community wide Climate Protection Plan is to be presented to City Council by March 1, 2015. By then the new 10-1 City Council will be in place.
In the meantime, the Austin Energy Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan update will continue and could include improvements to Austin Energy’s climate protection goals. The Austin Energy Resource Generation Task Force will have it’s first meeting at 3:30pm on Wednesday, April 16. That meeting, and all subsequent Task Force meetings will be open to the public.
Councilman Riley sponsored the resolution with Councilman Spelman and Mayor Pro Tem Cole as co-sponsors. The resolution passed on a 6 to 0 vote, which only Mayor Leffingwell voting against it. The resolution passes with no fanfare, but the sponsors will host a press conference with community leaders tomorrow morning to announce this encouraging progress.