Austin City Council commits to climate change plan and transportation ‘electrification'

Austin City Council members Alison Alter and Leslie Pool held a press conference ahead of Thursday's council meeting about two environmentally-focused resolutions.

Pool's item: supporting as a City, the Congressional legislation called the "Green New Deal" introduced by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

"Several other cities across the country support the Green New Deal for the same reasons we do, because it recognizes the value of connecting climate resilience with economic opportunity. That's a win-win for everybody," Pool said.

Also, directing City Manager Spencer Cronk to develop recomendations for creating a community-wide prepardness plan. "It's essentially a blueprint that helps us, all of us, be better prepared to face the challenges of disastrous events like floods and wildfires,” Pool said.

Council Member Alter’s resolution directs the City Manage to include an analysis of “transportation electrification” in the next update of the city's “community climate plan.”

“We have an opportunity to make sure that the infrastructure is there for individuals with their personal electric vehicles, for Cap Metro with its buses, for light and heavy duty trucks in the city,” Alter said.

CapMetro is well on its way to electrification but Alter’s resolution goes beyond that. As city leaders have been harping on a lot lately, 74% of downtown Austin commuters are driving in a car by themselves. The goal is to get that number down to 50%. “But even if we do that we're still going to have a whole lot of cars on the road, a whole lot of trucks on the road and those cars and trucks on the road need to be electrified.  But you can't just electrify them you have to have the infrastructure so that people will adopt the new technology when it rolls out,” she said.

During the electrification discussion at Tuesday's City Council work session, Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison pointed out the inequities that exist in Austin. “There are a lot of poor people in this city!  And a $38,000 electric vehicle is not an option for them,” she said.

Harper-Madison says “climate reality” does have to be addressed but when we're talking about the impact of potential revenue caps on the city... “If we're going to have to be thinking about how to allocate funds in the most resourceful, long-term beneficial way possible, I can think of other things that are more important frankly,” Harper-Madison said. 

At Thursday's meeting Council Member Harper Madison offered a couple of tweaks to the electrification item that were accepted. Both Pool and Alter’s resolutions passed. 

“In a perfect world, conversations around weather or not we address people's basic needs and weather or not we address our planet's needs wouldn't necessarily have to be separate subjects,” she said.