City hopes local action makes a big difference in global issue
Portland's City Council approved Wednesday afternoon a 40-year plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions, voting 4-0 to enact one of most ambitious programs in the nation, if not the world, to counter global warming.
The Climate Action Plan, a joint effort by the city and Multnomah County, commits the area to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. That's the amount many scientists calculate is needed to avert dramatic impacts from climate change.
The plan prescribes major changes in how we heat our homes and offices, how we get to school and work, how we design our neighborhoods and how we get our food.
Some people ask why Portland and Multnomah County need to adopt such an aggressive strategy instead of letting national or global programs take their course, said Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen.
'It does need to be addressed globally,' Cogen told city commissioners, 'but local leadership really matters.'
Mayor Sam Adams promised the plan will help the economy by spurring green jobs, keeping Portland in the forefront so it can produce services and products that can be marketed globally.
'We have shown the rest of the world that we can be green and economically successful at the same time,' Adams said.
Setting new goals
The Climate Action Plan lists 93 actions to take over the next three years, as well as benchmarks to meet by 2030. City and county leaders would need to revisit the plan in three years to do a performance check, and perhaps set new goals.
Among the goals in the plan for 2030:
•Assure new homes and buildings have 'zero net greenhouse gas emissions.'
•Reduce energy used in all current buildings by 25 percent, via energy efficiency measures.
•Design neighborhoods so 80 percent of county residents, and 90 percent of city residents, can easily walk or bicycle to meet all basic, non-work needs, and have safe pedestrian or bicycle access to transit.
•Reduce daily miles driven in vehicles by 30 percent, per person.
•Reduce total solid waste by 25 percent, and recycle or reuse 90 percent of the waste
•Significantly increase the consumption of locally grown food
•Expand the urban forest canopy to cover one-third of Portland
Eliminating tons of carbon
Angus Duncan, chairman of the Oregon Global Warming Commission, said the plan is an appropriate mix of 'goals plus action,' and necessarily calls for a 'transformation' of many facets of daily life. 'It will not happen by incremental action,' he said.
Robin Everett of the Sierra Club praised the plan, but said city and county leaders need to address Portland General Electric's Boardman coal-fired plant. Boardman is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon, emitting 5 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.
'Eliminating 5 million tons of carbon dioxide is a climate action plan all on its own,' Everett said.
Multnomah County Commissioners are expected to adopt the plan Thursday.