Portland Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler, along with city and Multnomah County officials, has pledged to transition the city and county’s energy needs to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Wheeler and several local leaders revealed the new 16-item 2017-2018 Climate Action Agenda at a meeting on April 1oth.
Noting that the Trump Administration wants to “…take us back to the 1950s in terms of climate policies,” Mayor Wheeler told climate activists, concerned citizens, and members of the media attending the meeting that,
“No matter what’s going on in Washington [D.C.], Portland will continue to stay the course.”
A winner of the C-40 Cities Award in 2016, Portland’s 2015 climate action plan is already “the strongest in the world,” said Wheeler, explaining that the new climate agenda will build on that framework, and take the city “further and faster.”
With the goal “…to meet all of Portland and Multnomah County’s community-wide energy needs with 100% renewable energy by 2050” at the top of the agenda, City officials plan to lay the groundwork for reaching that goal by first transitioning all of the city and county’s electricity needs to renewable sources by 2035.
In a recent phone interview, Nathan Howard, the Mayor’s Senior Policy Advisor & Community Relations Lead told me that this goal does not include any exceptions. “We are excluding no sector, including natural gas,” he said.
Speakers at the event, including the Mayor, also focused on issues of climate justice, pledging to ensure that the benefits of climate action are shared equitably by all. Indeed, item number four on the agenda promises to
“Prioritize minimizing risks for communities most vulnerable to climate change impacts like heat waves and flooding, with a particular focus on communities of color and low-income populations.”
Other agenda items include:
- “Equitably implement the actions in the Climate Action Plan in ways that address health, safety and livability, access, prosperity and inclusive engagement.”
- “Work with utilities to accelerate the transition to zero-carbon electricity and minimize dependence on fossil fuels. Participate in the Public Utility Commission processes to determine how future power needs will be met.”
- “Urge the State of Oregon to strengthen its energy code to target net-zero energy buildings by 2030.”
- “Lead by example in City and County operations.” For example, supplying 100 percent of electricity for City and County operations from renewable resources, and establishing an EV (electric vehicle) first purchasing policy for the City of Portland.
Pledging to resist federal policy changes that will increase carbon emissions, Wheeler also noted during the meeting that,
“Leadership has swung to the local level to show that investing renewable energy is a fiscally rewarding strategy.”
Indeed, according to a recent press release from the Mayor’s office about the event, the region has reaped numerous benefits from its efforts to cut carbon emissions.
“Portland has been working on climate change since it became the first city in the United States to adopt a carbon reduction strategy in 1993. Since then, per capita carbon emissions have dropped 40 percent and overall emissions 21 percent below 1990 levels. The far-sighted policies of prioritizing climate change have paid off economically. According to a new analysis by the Portland Development Commission, the region has added 47,0000 clean tech jobs. The expanding urban tree canopy and natural areas, and major public works project like the car-free Tillikum Crossing, boost health and livability and make Portland a global destination.”
Citizens also have a part to play in helping Portland and Multnomah County provide a model for the rest of the country. Citizen actions run the gamut from participating in the city’s recycling and composting programs, to using public transportation and taking advantage of the City’s excellent system of bike lanes, to making low carbon choices for their homes.
As Mayor Wheeler pointed out,
“We don’t succeed addressing climate change by government action alone. We need our whole community: government, businesses, organizations and households to work together to make a just transition to a 100% renewable future.’’
And, in case anyone at the meeting needed reminding, the consequences of not following through on the new agenda were expressed by 7th grader, climate activist, and local YouTube celebrity Jeremy Clark. As a “proud native Portlander,” Clark described how much he loves skiing down Mount Hood or running through the trees at Reed College, expressing his fear “…. that the things I love in Portland will be gone in my lifetime.” After reminding the adults in the room that his future lies in our hands, he said,
“It gives me a lot of hope that the leaders of my community are promising today to drastically reduce our community’s carbon emissions. Keeping our climate sustainable is the most important issue for the success of my generation. So, if you keep your promises made today, then in 20 – 30 years, you can say to your children and grandchildren, ‘Together, we kept your future bright.’”