Austin city leaders expected to declare ‘climate emergency’

Austin

Photo: KXAN/Juan Salinas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin city leaders are expected to approve a resolution declaring a “climate emergency” during Thursday’s city council meeting.

WATCH LIVE: City leaders expected to approve resolution declaring 'climate emergency' today | Hear what they have to say ahead of the voteDETAILS: https://kxan.tv/2Yzh9Ia

Posted by KXAN News on Thursday, August 8, 2019

“We’re basically saying this is an emergency and we need to treat it like an emergency and take the steps that we need accordingly,” said Councilwoman Alison Alter, who’s the lead sponsor of the resolution.

If approved, the resolution would require the city manager to give regular updates to the city council on what staff members are doing to achieve climate change goals.

“We’ve known in our hearts for so long that we are in a crisis,” said Council Member Greg Casar at a Thursday morning press conference. “It’s devastating to people’s lives now. You don’t have to look any further than the increased flooding in our community, hurricanes that devastated the coast, the fires that we have experienced and that we will experience.”

The city would also launch a community awareness campaign to let people know what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint. They would also focus on mass transportation as a way to reduce greenhouse emissions.

“Transportation has to be an integral part of our solution,” said Council Member Ann Kitchen. “We have recognized that as a community. We recently adopted our Austin Strategic Mobility Plan which sets the goal of a mode shift, a 50-50 mode shift.”

Additionally, it would create “resilience hubs” in low to moderate-income areas to serve as shelters, evacuation centers, and disaster response hubs during emergencies related to the changing climate.

“On a day like today that’s hot, it’s a place that people can go to get cool, it’s a place that people can go to get information,” Alter said.

NASA scientists believe our planet is warming at an unprecedented rate. Their research indicates there’s more than a 95% chance humans are to blame.

Eighteen of the 19 warmest years have all occurred since 2001, with the exception being 1998.

Not everyone thinks local government should be taking on climate change.

Texas Public Policy Foundation Analyst Brent Bennett said those decisions should be left up to state and federal governments.

“The idea that we have to do something right now, and we have to do X Y and Z policy initiatives, and it has to be this way, especially in increasing the role of government, in the energy sector and in our lives in general, is what we disagree with,” Bennett said.

However, University of Texas Climate Researcher Jud Partin said every action we can take adds up.

“Every little piece that people can play or communities can play, it all helps in addressing the problem,” Partin said.

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