The newly inaugurated San Antonio City Council began their term on Thursday by voting to join over 300 U.S. cities that have signed pledges to combat climate change.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg, along with nine other city council members, agreed to the guidelines of the Paris climate agreement, which President Donald Trump withdrew from earlier this month. The pledge council approved on Thursday also vows to cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.
"This is a groundbreaking accord, recognizing that every city, every municipality in the globe has a responsibility to its citizens locally, and also to its citizens around the world," Nirenberg said. "That's why I'm excited about this being the first day of the council. It recognizes that San Antonio is not just an international city by name, but also a city responsible to the world."
The commitment to the Paris agreement means that San Antonio will work towards the goal of keeping global temperatures from rising no more than two degrees celsius. Doug Melnick, chief of the city's sustainability office, said the agreement council approved on Thursday makes official the city's pledge to target greenhouse gas pollution and underscores council's support for current city initiatives baked into the SA Tomorrow Plan and Metro Health's strategic plan.
In adopting Thursday's resolution, San Antonio also takes one defiant step against President Trump. After Trump's June 1 decision to back out of the Paris agreement, a flurry of mayors across the country began adding their cities to the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, the group dedicated to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and creating climate change policy. At the time, then mayor Ivy Taylor would not make a clear stance, despite that Texas powerhouses Houston, Dallas, and Austin had already added their names to the "Climate Mayors" group.
San Antonio also was left hanging earlier this month when Gov. Greg Abbott cut $6 million from the state's clean air program. The regional organization that monitors air quality, Alamo Area Council of Governments, lost about $1.4 million from their budget as a result.
In light of the heated state and national political climate, councilman Roberto Treviño said, "It's important that we're tackling [greenhouse gas emissions] because other entities are not."
Still, new councilman Clayton Perry from District 10 voted against the resolution, saying that before voting he "wanted to do more on-the-ground research" among his constituents. He moved to postpone the vote until an August meeting, and was supported in that measure by councilman Greg Brockhouse, the new representative of District 6. Brockhouse ultimately voted in favor of signing on to the Paris agreement.
In her closing remarks, newly sworn-in District 7 Council member Ana Sandoval summed up the importance of Thursday's vote this way: "There's not a council member here who's not proud to be a leader of the seventh-largest city in the United States. I saw it last night on everyone's faces," she said, referring to Wednesday's inauguration ceremony. "As such we have the ability, but we also have the responsibility, to act, to safeguard the welfare of our residents, and that of their children and their grand children."