In June of 2017, San Antonio’s City Council approved a resolution in support of the Paris Climate Agreement – a pact signed by nearly 500 nations that pledged to combat climate change by keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.
The municipal resolution established the groundwork for city staff to develop a plan to help San Antonio meet the objectives of the historic agreement.
On Oct. 17th 2019, San Antonio passed the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan(CAAP), which would put the city on a course of carbon neutrality by 2050. What does carbon neutrality mean for those of us who live in San Antonio? The emissions we create from cars or coal plants for example, must be offset by reductions in emissions elsewhere. Complicated scientific jargon aside, this is good environmental and public health policy. Making our city carbon neutral will help us to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and ensure a habitable planet in the near future for our families.
It has been a little more than a year since the CAAP was passed. Let’s take a moment to consider what the city is actually doing to help San Antonio meet its 2050 goal. Two committees were formed to start implementing the plan: An Equity Committee and a Technical/Community Advisory Committee. The Equity Committee’s mission includes advising city staff and the San Antonio City Council on the advancement of equity-centered implementation of the CAAP and long-term sustainability plans, such as the SA Tomorrow Sustainability Plan. In other words, the Equity Committee will ensure this plan helps protect those who contribute the least to pollution but suffer the most. The Technical/Community Committee will advise city staff and city council by providing expertise, diverse perspectives, and input regarding implementation of the CAAP as the city works to achieve greenhouse gas reduction and adaptation goals.
As the city celebrates the one-year anniversary of the climate plan, we should reflect on its 2020 climate initiatives – Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Transportation, Waste Management, Biodiversity and Ecosystems and Educate and Empower. These are all important initiatives for reaching the 2050 target. However, a critical initiative is missing: Closing CPS Energy’s dangerous, polluting coal plant. This must be considered, publicly discussed and planned for by Mayor, Ron Nierenberg, city officials and anyone who cares about keeping our planet livable.
The Spruce coal plant, which contributes to San Antonio having the worst childhood asthma hospital rate in Texas, isn’t mentioned anywhere in plans for the one-year celebration. But Spruce emits seven million metric tons of carbon pollution every year. In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency put Bexar County in Nonattainment for ozone which means the air that we are breathing is unhealthy. What is the city of san Antonio and county doing to change that?
Our mayor should be calling on CPS Energy to stop keeping the public in the dark about its mysterious and opaque plans for shutting the plant down. Let’s take the climate crisis seriously. That means putting the premature celebrations on hold until that coal plant is retired, and we truly move our city to a cleaner renewable future.