- The Austin (TX) City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring a climate emergency, calling for "an immediate emergency mobilization to restore a safe climate."
- The legislation requires the city manager to devise an accountability and reporting structure for climate change goals, which will be presented to the City Council by October 1. The city manager is tasked with developing a community awareness campaign by May 2020, and examining the feasibility of accelerating the city's climate objectives as part of the upcoming update to the five-year-old Community Climate Plan.
- The ordinance highlighted local effects of climate change, including frequent temperature extremes, drought, flooding and wildfires. The resolution says building a climate-resilient and adaptive society will improve citizens' health while protecting Austin's ecosystems and economy.
Austin, TX is the first southern city in the US to declare a climate emergency, with a large focus on community engagement through the awareness campaign. The details of the campaign aren't yet determined, but it could include partners such as Austin Energy, Austin Transportation Department and Austin Resource Recovery, considering those three entities are involved in areas that are important to energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions, according to a representative from the Office of Sustainability.
The effort will likely involve the city's Equity Office because the resolution specifically mentions reaching out to populations that disproportionately bear the burden of climate change and severe weather impacts. Those communities often are low-income, communities of color or other marginalized populations.
Another notable part of the resolution is to establish year-round "Resilience Hubs" in low-to-moderate income areas. The hubs would be part of established community facilities and have the ability to serve as shelters, evacuation centers and response hubs during climate-related emergencies. The hub idea was first introduced last year in the Office of Sustainability's Climate Resilience Action Plan for City Assets and Operations. Conversations currently are underway to determine how to implement the first Resilience Hub pilot.
In January, Austin was named one of the 25 Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge winners. The city will receive funding and other support to achieve its carbon reduction goals during the two-year acceleration program. The city stated its intent to use the program assistance to devise transportation incentives, implement new parking management and pricing programs to reduce vehicle emissions and work with local dealerships to boost electric vehicle sales. This summer, they made progress on setting up the transportation incentives pilot and the city council is expected to vote on the final strategy in September.
"Austin City Council's adoption of a 'climate emergency' shows just how urgent this issue is. Every city should be taking steps to reverse the damage that has already been done, and prepare for the extreme weather impacts we are already experiencing. This should not be a partisan issue — no matter your politics, climate change affects everyone. There's not a moment to lose, and Austin will continue to lead the way along with other forward-thinking cities around the world," Austin Chief Sustainability Officer Lucia Athens told Smart Cities Dive via email.