Here's what resilience and sustainability wins Houston has had the past three years. Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability

Houston is making strides in its commitment to combat climate change and build a more resilient future for its residents, according to a recent report.

Three years after Resilient Houston and the Climate Action Plan launched in 2020, the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability, in collaboration with other departments, has issued a report on the progress of both plans.

"The creation of the Mayor's Office of Resilience and Sustainability (MORS) as a combined office in October 2021 is a visionary and bold step that brings a holistic perspective to the practice of resilience and sustainability in Houston," Priya Zachariah, chief resilience and sustainability officer, writes in the report.

"When Houston talks about resilience – it means building capacity in our most vulnerable communities to respond, grow, and thrive in the face of climate shocks and stressors," she continues. "When Houston talks about sustainability – it means reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but it also means energy affordability, energy reliability, and energy access for everyday Houstonians."

The report identified some of the biggest wins within the city's plans, including highlighting that 172 out of 201 Resilient Houston sub-actions and 69 out of 96 Climate Action Plan actions have been completed or are in progress. The combined efforts have led to a series of accomplishments over the past year that are driving Houston toward becoming a more sustainable, equitable, and climate-resilient city.

“Earth Day HTX 2023 marked three years of laser-focused cooperation between all city departments and our dedicated community partners to push forth initiatives for a cleaner, greener Houston and I’m proud to say that we are exceeding expectations mapped out in these two plans,” Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a statement. “We track 30 measurable goals and are transparent with where we are on each one of them. We are on track to meet or exceed almost every goal and even though this is my last year in office, the wheels are in motion for future administrations to continue building on this success.”

One of the highlights from the report is the city's reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The greenhouse gas emissions inventory for 2020 showed a notable 10 percent reduction from the baseline established in 2014.

The city's dedication to sustainability and transparency has also been recognized by external organizations. The Carbon Disclosure Project, or CDP, awarded Houston an A rating in 2022 for its efforts, including public disclosure of climate-related information, a community-wide emissions inventory, and the implementation of a climate risk and vulnerability assessment.

Furthermore, Houston has achieved the Gold designation as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, for cities by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This recognition highlights the city's commitment to green building practices and environmental responsibility.

In terms of green infrastructure, Houston has continued to prioritize tree planting efforts. Per the report, 214,134 trees were planted in 2022, contributing to a total of over 1.4 million trees since 2019. The goal is to plant 4.6 million trees by 2030, effectively reducing urban heat island effects, improving air and water quality, and providing numerous ecological benefits.

In addition, Houston has taken proactive measures to protect its natural habitats and enhance climate resilience. The City Council approved the Nature Preserve Ordinance in 2022, safeguarding 7,423 acres of natural habitat in city parks. These nature preserves will serve as vital spaces for native wildlife, mitigate flooding, and support carbon sequestration.

Houston's commitment to sustainable transportation is also evident. The city has expanded its bike infrastructure, adding 20 miles of high-comfort bike lanes in 2022. This brings the total bikeway miles to 406 out of a goal of 500 miles, promoting alternative and eco-friendly modes of transportation.

The city's efforts extend to municipal operations as well. Houston adopted a Municipal Building Decarbonization and Benchmarking policy in 2022, setting the stage for a more sustainable approach to building management. Additionally, the Houston Airport System has taken significant steps towards achieving carbon neutrality by engaging in the Airport Carbon Accreditation program.

Houston's commitment to renewable energy has also yielded positive results. The city has witnessed an increase in local solar generation, with annual solar generation reaching 148,030 MWh in 2021. Efforts to promote solar investments, including a group-buying campaign with Solar United Neighbors, have contributed to this upward trend.

The city's commitment to electrification is evident in its municipal fleet. Houston has expanded its electric vehicle fleet, operating 333 hybrid electric vehicles and 88 battery electric vehicles. An additional 107 battery electric vehicles and 41 hybrid electric vehicles are expected to be added within the next year. Charging infrastructure is also expanding, with 57 installed chargers and plans for an additional 144.

Mayor Turner's leadership in climate action has extended beyond the city's borders. The mayor led a delegation to Mexico City to launch the Resilient Cities Network initiative, Women in Resilience, highlighting Houston's role in international climate leadership. The city aksi hosted Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and signed a letter of intent with the city of Rotterdam to collaborate on community and energy resilience.

The full report tracking the initiatives' progress is available online.

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This article was generated in part by artificial intelligence.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Law firm's Houston office expands energy expertise

new hire

Leading adviser to energy companies, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, has announced a new energy transactions partner in the firm’s Houston office.

Ian Goldberg will advise clients on various energy transactions, which will include project development, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, and financial transactions that will involve oil and gas assets, energy transition investments and rare earth mineral deposits.

He previously led the energy transactions practice at Hunton Andrews Kurth.

“Akin has a top-tier integrated platform across the entire energy value chain,” Goldberg says in a news release.” I’m excited to be joining a growing and dynamic team.”

He will be joining recent additions to Akin’s energy practice that include projects & energy transition partners Ike Emehelu (New York), Alex Harrison, Matt Hardwick and Dan Giemajner (London), energy regulatory partners Emily Mallen and Stephen Hug (Washington, D.C.), tax equity partner Sam Guthrie (Washington, D.C.) and projects & energy transition partner Vanessa Richelle Wilson (Washington, D.C.)..

“Ian adds depth to our energy team with extensive experience in the onshore and offshore upstream and midstream sectors, and his current representation of clients in the carbon capture, utilization & storage and hydrogen spaces further strengthens our growing projects & energy transition practice,” corporate practice co-head Zachary Wittenberg adds in the release.

Shell fuels energy transition with roll out of EV charging stations

coming soon

As it downshifts sales of fuel for traditional vehicles, energy giant Shell is stepping up its commitment to public charging stations for electric vehicles.

In a new report on energy transition, Shells lays out an aggressive plan for growing its public network of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The company plans to boost the global number of public EV charging stations from about 54,000 today to around 70,000 by 2025 and about 200,000 by 2030.

The projected growth from today to 2030 would represent a 270 percent increase in the number of Shell-operated EV charging stations.

“We have a major competitive advantage in terms of locations, as our global network of service stations is one of the largest in the world,” Shell says in the report.

Shell’s global network of service stations is shrinking, though. In the report, the company reveals plans to close a total of 1,000 gas stations in 2024 and 2025. Today, more than 45,000 Shell-branded gas stations are located in over 90 countries.

Aside from Shell gas stations, the company’s Shell Recharge business unit operates public EV charging stations along streets, at grocery stores, and at other locations in 33 countries.

Shell, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, is ramping up its EV charging network amid forecasts of slowing demand for oil and rising demand for EVs. Other than EV charging, Shell is focusing on biofuels and integrated power as components of its revamped product mix.

“Shell is well positioned to become a profitable leader in public charging for electric vehicles, meeting the growing demand from drivers who need to charge on the go,” the report says.

To accelerate its EV charging presence in the U.S., Shell in 2023 purchased Volta, a San Francisco-based operator of EV charging stations. Shell says it now operates one of the largest public EV charging networks in the U.S., with more than 3,000 charging points in 31 states and another 3,400 under development.

“The availability of charging points will be critical for the growth in electric vehicles,” the report says.

Last month, Shell divested from a solar energy subsidiary, before later announcing an exit from a wind energy joint venture.

"In-line with our Powering Progress strategy, Shell continues to hone our portfolio of renewable generation projects in key markets where we have an advantaged position," Glenn Wright, senior vice president at Shell Energy Americas, said in a news release at the time.