Sunday, April 20, 2008

Climate Protection and Traffic

When launched by high profile press conference in February 2007, Mayor Will Wynn declared that Austin’s new “Climate Protection Plan” was the best in the nation.

The “plan,” however, was really just a two-page outline. You can read it here.

Now compare it to Seattle’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in September 2006. It’s a real plan.

The title “Seattle, a Climate of Change: Meeting the Kyoto Challenge,” makes it clear that Seattle was committed to meeting its fair share of the Kyoto Protocol targets. By contrast, Austin’s alleged “best of” plan made no such commitment. When the glaring absence of a commitment to the Kyoto targets (or any other citywide goal) was brought to the entire council’s attention, they quickly moved to . . . do nothing.

Seattle’s plan tackles the most important task – car and truck traffic – first. The first chapter, following the introduction, is titled “Reducing Seattle’s Dependence on Cars.” Straight to the point – addressing greenhouse gas emissions, traffic congestion, and the necessity for transportation alternatives other than spending billions more on highway (or toll road) expansions and extensions.

What does Austin’s climate protection plan say about car and truck traffic? On page two of the plan/outline we see the heading “Community Plan” and, within that heading the phrase “Key areas for study include: Transportation; . . . “ Above that it says the City will create a “Climate Action Team” to develop inventories of emission sources, and “report to council in one year recommendations for short-term and long-term reduction targets and implementation strategies for the metro area.”

Who is on the Climate Action Team? Who knows about it? Did they make their one year report to council in February 2008? If so, what does it say? One might think that the answers to these questions would already be widely known in the community or, at minimum, readily available on the city’s website. Alas, no such luck.

So is our City’s “best in the nation” Climate Protection Plan more “green” or “greenwash’? You might think about this when you decide whether to vote for BATPAC endorsed challenger Jason Meeker or incumbent Lee Leffingwell.

Written by Bill Bunch, Board Member of Better Austin Today

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