This post is sponsored & written by The Office of Sustainability, the city department that is working toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, a healthy & just local food system, and climate resiliency.
This post is sponsored by the City of Austin Office of Sustainability. All Austin Common sponsors are screened by The Austin Common team to ensure they’re doing good for their employees, customers, our community, and the planet.
Through November 12, leaders from around the world are gathered in Glasgow, Scotland for the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as COP26. Throughout these weeks, the global community turns our eyes towards the commitments coming out of Glasgow as countries work together to accelerate climate action.
COP26 created goals focused on four key areas:
Mitigation: Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
Adaptation: Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
Finance: Mobilize finance
Collaboration: Work together to deliver
At the Office of Sustainability, we wanted to ground these conversations in our local community. Inspired by the UK’s #OneStepGreener initiative, we reached out to some of our past Net-Zero Heroes to hear more about their reflections on COP26.
At times I feel like people are intimidated by the idea of getting involved in climate action which is why I think we need to simplify what fighting climate change looks like. We need to remind ourselves and others of the basic steps we can take to be more environmentally friendly. In Spanish there is the saying, “poner tu granito de arena,” which literally translates to “put in your grain of sand”. I encourage everyone to do research/ educate themselves on what their granito de arena looks like for them and remind them that even the smallest thing can make a big impact when we all come together.
I hope that global leaders will consider equity in their conversations at COP26. What does fighting climate change look like at each and every level? How can we make this accessible and attainable for everyone. How can we simplify what fighting climate change looks like so that we can make this something everyone can feel they can do?
I believe the COP26 goal “Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats” resonates the most with Austin. As a fast-growing urban center, Austin needs to prepare for climate change’s impact, so we can continue to grow and become a leader within the US and the world. Future extreme weather events will put stress on Austin’s infrastructure. As every Austinite and Texan experienced in the February winter storm, our electricity, natural gas, and water infrastructure failed spectacularly. The heavy and unexpected snow shut down our city for a week and questioned our resilience to future extreme weather. In addition, Austin’s summers are getting hotter and hotter. In 2011, Austin recorded 27 consecutive triple-digit degree days, part of the total 90 triple-digit degree days. Our city needs to invest in developing a defense to combat future extreme weather events to protect its residents.
I’d like to define what it means to engage in climate activism: climate activism does not only include young people like Greta Thunberg publicly challenging authority. Anybody can engage with climate action. For example, individual efforts like creating less food waste and limiting pollution are simple ways to get involved.
Besides individual tasks, one can also educate themselves on climate science to become better informed. In addition, one can join organizations and volunteer with the community to do things like voice opinions to elected leaders or plant trees at a park. Some organizations I have been a part of are Austin Sierra Club, Citizens Climate Lobby, 350 Austin, and Austin Climate Coalition. However, there are so many more organizations that do their part for the environment, and I encourage everyone to do some research and find a way they can participate!
As a small business owner, I have been spreading the message that fighting climate change does not have to come at a cost to business. What is good for the environment can also be good for business when done correctly. I am calling other small business owners to take meaningful actions, however small, in their businesses to compound the impact.
In my opinion, the COP26 goal that is most important at the local Austin level is their goal around collaboration, specifically: “To accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society”. The keyword being “accelerate”. All goals are important, but this goal is especially relevant to Austin because we are the center of phenomenal growth and business relocation. Austin is in a unique position to compound and multiply the impact by calling on all businesses to take bolder actions. This will show their commitment to creating community benefit.
At the Office of Sustainability, we’re committed to ensuring Austin is a thriving, equitable, and ecologically resilient community. If you would like to learn more about the work we’re doing to advance climate action locally, we encourage you to explore the newly adopted Austin Climate Equity Plan. With 74 goals spread across five action areas, the plan sets forth the bold and aggressive goal of equitably reaching net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.