More people + more jobs = less carbon emissions.
That's the math from a new countywide report released by the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Emissions are down about 15% from 1990 levels, according to the report, but that doesn't account for boomtown conditions that bumped up the number of residents and jobs here by more than a third. Factor that in, city officials say, and each person in Multnomah County produced 38% less carbon gas in 2017 than they did nearly three decades ago.
"We've had a lot of success in reducing emissions," said Planning and Sustainability Director Andrea Durbin. "That's big."
In recent years, however, the downward trend has been sluggish at best.
"We've seen it plateau," Durbin said. "And this is really why there's an urgency internally for us at the city to look at what are the next steps."
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler believes part of the solution is for the City Council to declare a climate emergency sometime next year. Staff at BPS have been directed to reach out to youth, communities of color and other groups this fall.
Durbin says the mayor also is considering a new ban on fossil fuel infrastructure, such as the controversial Zenith oil terminal that's been targeted by activists. City Council tried to ban those types of developments once before, in 2016, but the ban hasn't been in effect for years after a successful lawsuit by the Western States Petroleum Association.
What is on the table? A push for more transit use, energy efficient buildings and less solo car trips. Specifics are lacking.
"I can't tell you exactly because it hasn't been developed," said Durbin.
The new report is unlikely to shield Wheeler from all criticism. Mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone has repeatedly hammered the mayor for supporting the state plan to add lanes to Interstate 5 in the Rose Quarter, as well as not taking immediate action on Zenith.
"You can't just declare an emergency — then wipe your hands of it — and then think that the emergency has been diverted," said her campaign manager, Gregory McKelvey. "The actions that we take toward climate change need to be done in a way that respects that this is truly an existential crisis."
Wheeler is not planning on attending the looming climate strike, which is expected to bring kids and adults from across the region to a City Hall siege beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 20.
Instead, he and other commissioners will take part in a ground-breaking ceremony for the Halsey 106 development, a mix of market-rate and affordable housing in the Gateway neighborhood, according to staffer Tim Becker.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Here are the key figures from a new report, "Carbon Emissions and Trends," in Multnomah County.
7,702,000 — the number of metric tons of carbon dioxide produced by Multnomah County in 2017.
2 degrees fahrenheit — the amount the Pacific Northwest has warmed since 1900.
42% — of the area's total carbon emissions come from transportation. Another 22% is classified as commercial, 18% as residential and 14% as industrial.
2000 — the year carbon emissions peaked in Multnomah County.
28% — of local emissions come from electricity (generated by coal and natural gas). Another quarter of emissions is produced by gasoline.
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