Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced that San Antonio’s City Council decided to delay the vote on the “Climate Action & Adaptation Plan” until the fall—a decision sure to make the CAAP a hot-button issue for the upcoming May election.
Discussions over the CAAP have taken place over the last year, but aside from being heralded as an environmental plan, many are still unaware of what exactly is being voted on. The city has provided a dedicated website to the plan itself, and SA Climate Ready’s 80-page PDF provides information for public discussion.
San Antonio’s revitalized environmental commitment began when, in 2017, the city council decided to adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement despite President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw. It is important to note, despite being pulled out of the agreement by President Trump, the U.S. still managed to lower its emissions by a larger rate than most Paris participants.
In the document provided by the city, the ultimate goal is made clear: “Carbon Neutral by 2050.” Put simply, the policy’s goal is that by the year 2050, the City of San Antonio will not emit any carbon dioxide.
To achieve its ambitious goal, the plan looks to make some drastic changes.
San Antonio’s Climate Ready report identifies the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses (GHG). The biggest chunks of the GHG pie are identified as commercial/industrial buildings at 27 percent, residential buildings at 18 percent, and private transportation (heavy/light trucks and cars) contributing to 34 percent of GHG emissions in San Antonio.
To reach the goals set, San Antonio understands that private industry, and a market made up of free-willed consumers and businesses, stands in their way. While most of the wording under the implementation portion of the city’s proposal focuses on “incentivizing and investing” in greener alternatives, one coercive approach is listed. The plan looks to “explore the development of vehicle-free zones within the Regional Transit Centers and specialized overlay districts … ” in order to control the GHGs emitted as a result of vehicle miles traveled. That approach would be used to promote public transit—an item routinely rejected by San Antonio voters.
Another important component of the city’s proposal is closing coal plants. In the entire plan, nuclear energy is mentioned only once as part of a definition to “carbon-free energy.”
Nuclear can meet the needs of the city while producing GHG-free emissions. So why is it not a part of the plan? As of now, solar and wind energy cannot fulfill the needs of the City of San Antonio. So, as it stands, San Antonio’s climate plan is based on energy-generating technologies that don’t exist.
The SA Climate Ready document recognizes that San Antonio ranks lower in terms of GHG emissions per capita than Dallas, Houston, and Austin and that the U.S. is massively dwarfed by China and other nations in terms of GHG emissions—making up a mere 15 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. Considering San Antonio’s insignificant emission share in the world, the Climate Ready Plan becomes a medium for national attention that rides on the backs of the San Antonio taxpayer.
Mayor Niremberg has already become acquainted with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the climate plan; Bloomberg has awarded San Antonio a $2.5 million grant committed to carrying it out.
San Antonio’s Climate Action will require a complete restructuring of the local economy and a revision of what local citizens must comply with in order to attain the goals laid out. Considering that the mayoral position was a political springboard for Julian Castro, it’s not hard to believe that having a climate initiative under his belt could come in handy for Niremberg’s political future.
And at what cost?
The plan is unclear, and taxpayers are left in the dark. What is clear is that this plan is riddled with subsidies or “incentives” that will leave San Antonio residents picking up the tab one way or another.
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