Travis County's greenhouse gas emissions increased by 11% from 2022 to 2023, marking a step back from the county's goal to reach net-zero emissions internally by 2030, according to a new sustainability report.

Travis County commissioners receive the annual sustainability report each year ahead of Earth Day. The report provides an update and identifies solutions on:
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Water and energy usage
  • Trash and recycling systems
The breakdown

Greenhouse gasses emitted by county facilities, the county’s vehicle fleet and employee commutes to work all increased from 2022 to 2023.

Emissions caused by employees commuting to work increased 40% year over year—the highest increase among the three factors analyzed in the report—despite the county’s telework policy that allows 75% of staffers to work from home.

County buildings and facilities were responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions in 2023 at 25,995 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, trap heat and warm the atmosphere, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These gasses remain in the atmosphere for varying times, from a few years to thousands of years, according to the EPA.

On the other side

Both the city and county boosted their trash diversion rates from 2022 to 2023, inching closer to the city’s goal to divert 90% of its trash to somewhere other than a landfill by 2040.

The county diverted 39% of trash in 2023, up from 29% in 2022, and the city increased its trash diversion rate from 38% to 42%.

Both entities credit the higher diversion rates to the thousands of tons of tree debris crews cleaned up following Winter Storm Mara. Austin crews picked up enough tree debris to fill Q2 Stadium over four times.

What’s next?

Both the city and county are in the process of updating their long-term climate plans as sustainability deadlines draw closer. Austin has a goal to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, and Travis County hopes to reach net-zero communitywide by 2050.

A Feb. 15 resolution from council member Ryan Alter directed city staff to draft investment options to fulfill the city's adopted climate-related plans and seek community input on funding. Austin could call a bond election this November to fund the city’s sustainability programs focused on water supply, energy use, wildfires and more.

The county will present an update to its Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2020, at a later date.