Climate Equity

In San Antonio, communities of color make up 75% of the population, but experience worse outcomes in health, education, employment, and housing.

What is Climate Equity?

What is Climate Equity?

Equity means that our policymaking, service delivery, and distribution of resources account for the different histories, challenges, and needs of the people we serve.  A climate equity framework prioritizes resources and support to the communities burdened the most by climate change, those that contribute the least to climate change, and those who are most socially vulnerable to it. The City of San Antonio is committed to empowering these communities to overcome obstacles and achieve their own goals and ambitions.  Furthermore, uplifting values of climate equity ensures that these communities play a central role in the just transformation of the systems that have established, and continue to perpetuate, the unequal burden of climate impacts.

What is Climate Equity?

Income Inequity is Climate Inequity

In San Antonio, communities of color make up 75% of the population, but experience worse outcomes in health, education, employment, and housing among many other factors. This chart demonstrates the income inequity, showed by median hourly wage, that has existed in our community over the decades.

Data from the National Equity Atlas

Demographic information from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey

What is Climate Equity?

There are direct connections between where our most marginalized community members live, the location of green spaces, and the urban heat island effect. These maps are used to prioritize action in areas where frontline communities are experiencing the worst effects of climate change.

The City of San Antonio Office of Equity collects and reports data to illuminate current racial disparities such as in education, housing, and health. The data is shared with City leadership and the greater public to strengthen the case for racial equity. Check out the 2019 Racial Equity Indicator Report.

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Social Vulnerability Index (SVI)
Urban Heat Island Effect
Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) with Tree Canopy

The Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) helps identify communities that are most likely to need support before, during, and after a hazardous event or natural disaster, such as people who live in poverty, are chronically ill, disabled, over 65, or under 5 years old.

What is Climate Equity?

Health Inequity is Climate Inequity

The chart on the right demonstrates an example of the health inequity between race/ethnicity groups in San Antonio. Climate change has the potential to worsen air quality in our community, and San Antonians with asthma would be disproportionately impacted due to added health risks. Understanding how the effects of climate change will impact the health and well-being of vulnerable groups and ensuring equitable health outcomes is an important part of advancing climate equity in our City.

Climate Inequity and Health

Equitable and Accessible Engagement

Education & Empowerment is a foundational strategy for climate action, included in the SA Climate Ready Plan. The City is working with Texas Creative, Ltd. (TXC), a woman- and locally-owned public relations company, to ensure that the City of San Antonio communicates with the public in engaging and accessible ways. TXC has provided direct funding for local grassroots organizations, including disABILITYsa, The Empower House (formerly Martinez Street Women’s Center), Yanawana Herbolarios, and The Health Collaborative, to engage with frontline communities, and conduct a study to understand attitudes and perceptions of community members. 

The study found that most San Antonio adults believe that climate change is occurring (81%) and having an impact on San Antonio (78%), and that government and business cooperation is needed to address climate change. 

Climate Inequity and Health

Extreme Weather and Health Impacts

The Office of Sustainability commissioned the Health Collaborative (THC) to conduct a thorough assessment of the ways in which the changing climate is likely to exacerbate (and perhaps even cause) illnesses, injuries and even deaths through extreme weather events and an increased frequency and severity of diseases exacerbated by the climate crisis as a planning guidance document and vital supplemental companion to the City’s Climate Ready Action Plan. THC was tasked with determining what threats pollution-induced environmental changes pose to the City of San Antonio and to quantify the excess morbidity and mortality that can be attributed to the climate crisis. This serves the greater purpose of crafting evidence-based strategies on how to mitigate these losses and offers insight into the public health and safety toll climate change can affect by the year 2036 if actions such as those suggested are not promptly undertaken. The full report can be accessed on the City's sustainability website.

Chart: Percent (%) of Surveyed Adults Reporting They Every Had Asthma, by Race/Ethnicity, Texas (Source: "The City of San Antonio in 2036: The Impacts of Climate Change on Public Health", Health Collaborative, November 2021)

Making Climate Equity a Reality in San Antonio

Planning for Equitable Action

Addressing major structural and institutional inequity, such as housing discrimination and neglected public infrastructure, will require the involvement of those affected by these issues in the policy planning process. San Antonians who are most vulnerable to climate impacts - communities of color, low-income communities, seniors, and people with disabilities - must have their voices heard to ensure that climate equity is at the forefront of the planning process. 

Before implementing the actions and adaptation strategies in the City’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, each strategy will be evaluated by key community equity stakeholders using the Climate Equity Screening Tool. The tool is centered on five climate equity themes: 

  1. Access and Accessibility
  2. Affordability
  3. Cultural Preservation
  4. Health
  5. Safety and Security

This tool will allow the City to identify potential burdens to vulnerable groups, reduce and eliminate these burdens, and find opportunities to improve quality of life for vulnerable groups. Those whose lives will be most impacted by climate change will influence decision-making around climate action and adaptation in our City.

Making Climate Equity a Reality in San Antonio

Equity Atlas

The City of San Antonio created a public, online Equity Atlas to help ensure that the City is making data-informed decisions which actively address disparities. Maps relating to basic demographic indicators such as race, income, and language are used to understand trends and gaps, with a goal of utilizing these maps in making more equitable policy decisions. As a result, the Atlas can help government and community partners make San Antonio a more inclusive and equitable city to live, learn, work, and play. 

Making Climate Equity a Reality in San Antonio

The Advisory Committees are important partners to bring climate action and preparedness to fruition through implementation of the strategies in the SA Climate Ready Plan. 

Both committees chose their priorities for the year, which include one mitigation strategy, one adaptation strategy, and one strategy that encompasses both:

  • Energy Benchmarking (mitigation)
  • Resilience Hubs (adaptation)
  • Engagement & Communications (both)

The Tech & Community committee also proposed amendments to the Unified Development Code and to the 2022-2027 (and beyond) Bond Programs. 

Melissa Bryant
Chair, Technical & Community Advisory Committee
San Antonio River Authority
James Cooper
Co-chair, Technical & Community Advisory Committee
Project Quest

Jesus Garcia-Gonzalez
Chair, Climate Equity
Advisory Committee
Catholic Charities Archdiocese
of San Antonio, Inc.
Dr. Adelita Cantu
Co-Chair, Climate Equity
Advisory Committee
UT Health San Antonio

Making Climate Equity a Reality in San Antonio

Youth Engagement for Climate Initiatives

The second cohort of the Mayor’s Youth Engagement Council for Climate Initiatives (MYECCI), managed by EcoRise and funded by the Holloman Price Foundation, launched in Fall 2021 and consists of students representing 10 school districts with at least two students from each of the City’s Council Districts. MYECCI is one initiative of the Office of Sustainability’s climate education and empowerment program. Students will participate in citywide climate engagement and education campaigns to incorporate youth concerns and have the opportunity to engage with City Council members. 

The second cohort of the MYECCI consists of 37 San Antonio high schoolers.

Nicole Romero and Ashley Bird are shown at the Texas Butterfly Ranch.

Making Climate Equity a Reality in San Antonio

What has the MYECCI Been Up To?

The MYECCI had its first successful cohort in the 2020-2021 school year. The cohort worked on projects and policy recommendations on the following topics: Infrastructure and Energy; Biodiversity; Community Health and Food Security; and Transportation and Housing. Examples of resulting projects including enhancing a bus stop with greenery and shade, installing a bug hotel, and starting a community garden. Six students who participated in the first MYECCI cohort were selected for paid summer internships generously funded by the Hollomon Price Foundation. The interns worked in the Office of Sustainability, Office of Historic Preservation, World Heritage Office, and partner organizations including the Texas Butterfly Ranch, and the San Antonio River Foundation. The MYECCI program was recognized with Honorable Mention in the Large City category as part of the 2021 Mayors Climate Protection Awards hosted by the US Conference of Mayors.