June 19, 2024
Investment

City’s Office of Sustainability prepares investment plan to fund Austin’s environmental goals – The Daily Texan


The Austin City Council received a memo on May 21 from the city’s Office of Sustainability outlining an investment plan for projects to help Austin meet its climate and sustainability goals.

The sustainability office created the memo in response to a February resolution from City Council, which directed the city manager to examine current sustainability plans and goals. The city manager put the Office of Sustainability in charge of consolidating sustainability projects with rough cost estimates and timelines to meet these goals, said Rohan Lilauwala, the sustainability office’s climate project manager.

Council member Ryan Alter said that to thrive in a city like Austin there needs to be actionable change, and he got tired of the city’s cycle of setting goals and not taking action.

“I thought rather than perpetuating the cycle, why don’t we stop and ask ourselves, ‘what is it actually going to take to meet some of these goals that we’ve set’ and then ask staff to prepare,” Alter said. 

Caroline Gamble, an economics and sustainability studies senior, said taking more time to plan out the projects can help people better understand how each of the projects could improve the community. 

“By taking more time to really plan it out, you’re able to see how all the dots connect and are able to see how these different things affect different people and why things might cause issues that you would never think about,” Gamble said. 

One of the categories outlined in the memo is water quality, quantity and land. Alter said water conservation should be one of Austin’s main priorities in terms of sustainability. 

“We are not making any more water, and it is going to become more and more precious, especially as we grow as a city,” Alter said. “So we need to not just protect our water supply, but make investments so that everybody is using less water, so that’s a really high priority for me.” 

Gamble said the city should prioritize ensuring everyone has access to the essential needs to survive. 

“Just like making sure everyone has clean water and that everyone has access to grocery stores that might not have cars,” Gamble said.

Alter said he was not surprised by the estimated overall price tag of about $1.8 billion for the various sustainability projects that also plan to address carbon emissions, city operations and community resilience, especially in a large city like Austin.

“Making investments of this importance and this magnitude (is) going to be expensive, but it is going to be more expensive for us down the road if we choose to do nothing,” Alter said. 

Alter said the next steps are to evaluate which projects are ready now and which ones need more development, and then decide what needs action in the summer before the council adopts its budget in August. Alter said these decisions are just the initial step for helping Austin be more resilient to climate change. 

“Anyone who was here last summer knows how hot it was,” Alter said. “And this summer is looking no different, and so if we want to be resilient as a city to heat or to extreme weather, then we’re going to have to make continued investments, and this is just the beginning of that.” 



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