Solving Cities

Will Austin reach its 100% carbon neutral goal?

Will Austin reach its 100% carbon neutral goal?

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Austin's government has made major cuts in carbon emissions.

In 2007, the city of Austin, Texas chose to be a leader in municipal government sustainability. The city set a goal of becoming 100 percent carbon neutral by 2020.

Five years into the program, and the city is well on its way to reaching its goal, according to Government Technology. Through various initiatives the city government has decreased its emissions from 300,000 metric tons in 2007 to 183,000 metric tons in 2011.

So far, the major carbon-cutting programs have included powering all city buildings and facilities with 100 percent renewable energy and converting its fleet of vehicles to alternative fuels or hybrid vehicles (65 percent of already made the change). And if the city can't meet its 100 percent goal through local changes, the city will purchase carbon credits.

While reaching the plan's lofty goals can be challenging -- the renewable energy program cost $8.5 million more than business as usual and sometimes politics can get in the way of conservation -- the implementation of these policy goals has led to a major shift in how the city operates.

“Everything has evolved since we initiated the plan in 2007, which has been an interesting part of the whole process,” Zach Baumer, Austin’s climate protection program manager, told Government Technology. “The City Council and the mayor have changed, but the city remains committed, and has raised the importance level of the resolution. It is becoming ingrained in the culture of the city.”

That alone is a big win for the city.

Photo: Flickr/anneh632

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure