City Hall

Dallas Passes City's First Climate Action Plan

Cars and buildings are the biggest contributors to Dallas' greenhouse gas emissions.
Cars and buildings are the biggest contributors to Dallas' greenhouse gas emissions. Getty Images
Dallas is taking a shot, maybe not its best shot, at lessening the city's role in the global climate crisis. Wednesday, the City Council unanimously passed Dallas' first-ever Comprehensive Environmental and Climate Action Plan.

"I grew up partially in the shadow of a lead smelter plant in West Dallas. That’s something none of us want for our children today. Now, I believe, we are taking steps to overcome such challenges and to make Dallas a global leader in addressing environmental issues," Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement issued after the vote. "The CECAP (that's what the city is calling the plan) takes a balanced and common-sense approach — one that sets ambitious goals, but also accounts for our economic needs."

The plan lists 97 actions the city can take to address eight goals related to climate. Here's what the city hopes to accomplish:

  • Make buildings more efficient.
  • Generate and encourage renewable, reliable, and affordable energy.
  • Ensure Dallas communities have access to sustainable, affordable transportation options.
  • Make Dallas a zero-waste community.
  • Protect water resources and communities from flooding and drought.
  • Protect and enhance the city's ecosystems, trees and green spaces that in turn improve public health.
  • Provide all communities with access to healthy, locally grown and sustainable food.
  • Ensure all Dallas communities breathe clean air.
Dallas will be carbon neutral by 2050 if everything goes to plan, meeting a goal set out by the Paris Climate Accord.

To get there, the plan calls for 50% of Dallas residents and businesses to be on renewable energy-based electric plans by 2050 and an all-electric fleet for DART by the same date. New buildings in the city are expected to be energy neutral — meaning they produce as much renewable energy as they consume — starting in 2030. Older buildings are expected to reduce their energy use by 25% by the last year of the plan.

Increases to Dallas' tree canopy cover and better access to healthy, affordable food are also on tap, if the plan goes as planned.

"(The plan) is going to affect generations to come," said City Council member Omar Narvaez, one of the driving forces behind the plan. "This plan affects the next 50 years."

During the months that led up to Wednesday's vote, environmental groups challenged the city's plan, saying it came up wanting when compared with climate plans in other cities.

"I very simply went to the Atlanta plan. I went to the Denver plan," Rita Beving with Public Citizen, a climate planning group, told the Observer in March. "I found at least six or seven new strategies that we could consider, like sub-metering buildings or mandating that rental properties do incremental energy efficiency improvements."

Beving's organization called on the city to establish incremental targets in the plan, as well as committing to funding more of its proposals. Many of the items in the plan call for "identifying funding."

Narvaez said he would have liked a more robust plan, but that it was important to reach more consensus among Dallas business and environmental communities so the city could get started working on the plan.

"The plan's not perfect. The plan is full of compromises," Narvaez said. "Trust me, I would've loved to have further, but, in the spirit of compromise ... we were able to create this road map."
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young