As city officials search for funding opportunities to achieve climate-related goals, Austin residents voiced their opinions on how to do that during a Joint Sustainability Committee meeting March 27.

What happened

Community members shared key points, including preserving land for green space, investing in solar energy and focusing on transportation.

“We need the funding to go directly to on-the-ground projects rather than wasting millions and millions of dollars on making projects that have no local impact,” said resident Ted Eubanks, who recommended preserving green spaces in the city.

Residents such as Adam Greenfield from Safe Streets Austin, a grassroots organization promoting alternatives to driving, said Austin officials should focus on transportation to achieve the city’s target of net-zero emissions.

“When we look at our carbon emissions, No. 1, regionally, it's transportation,” Greenfield said. “Any serious plan about sustainability has to put transportation front and center.”

Sorting out the details

These recommendations from the community are the first of many to come, prompted by a resolution council passed Feb. 15. Drafted by council member Ryan Alter, the resolution did the following:
  • Began a community input process on an environmental investment plan
  • “Reaffirmed” a target of net-zero emissions by 2040, a goal set in the Austin Climate Equity Plan
  • Began drafting investment options to fulfill the city’s adopted plans related to the environment
“We as a city have made a lot of plans with a lot of great environmental goals for reducing our impact on the climate, but in too many instances have failed to make the investments needed to meet those goals or just, quite frankly, [have been] falling short,” Alter told Community Impact in February.

The Austin Climate Equity Plan, passed in 2021, outlines strategies to achieve its goals, including prioritizing greenhouse gas reduction and supporting community-led initiatives. Residents can find progress on this work here.

Funding for these projects could come from utility fees, general fund expenditures or grants. Another option, which goes against the advice of city staff, is to bring forth a bond to voters this November.

If the recommendation comes down to a bond, Alter told Community Impact the matter of climate change is too pressing to wait another two years.

Next steps

Before another public hearing in May, city officials will evaluate what projects need to be funded to achieve sustainability goals, Austin Chief Sustainability Officer Zach Baumer said.

In April, city staff will draft recommendations from the public, the Joint Sustainability Committee and other stakeholders to prioritize items and estimate costs. This will be presented to the Joint Sustainability Committee on April 24.

In May, a finalization of recommendations will be presented to the city manager and council, with a public hearing set for May 30.

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