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Kyle Diesner: BPS Climate Action Team member and so much more

Kyle Diesner, BPSIt’s Climate Action Plan season here at BPS, and we’re thrilled to have recently released the 2015 draft plan for public comment. This plan features two new focus areas -- advancing equity through climate action and a new consumption inventory -- which reflect innovative new research and extensive community engagement. From the benefits of low-carbon food choices to the need for more sidewalks in East Portland, the 2015 CAP is a pretty engaging read.

But who are the smart and passionate folks who have labored for more than two years to get this plan into the hands of the community? We’d like to introduce you to one of the key players, Kyle Diesner: BPS Policy Analyst, tireless equity advocate and chief consumption expert.

Kyle came to BPS (then, the Office of Sustainable Development) in 2003. Fresh out of college with a degree in Environmental Science, he joined the Multifamily (Weatherization) Assistance Program. As a volunteer, he spent his first few days copying hundreds of program files.  “Everyone has to start somewhere!” said Kyle. “The program was a great fit with my background in energy and my passion for equity.” After a stint at Ecos Consulting, Kyle rejoined OSD, because of the organization’s mission and workplace culture. His work with the BPS Multifamily Team resulted in energy efficiency improvements in tens of thousands of apartments.

Now Kyle has the opportunity to work on all kinds of projects, primarily climate, energy and social equity initiatives. One current project is a collaboration with the Northwest Solar Communities, which is a coalition of jurisdictions, utilities, industry partners and citizen groups working together to make rooftop solar electricity more cost effective for all.

Making the connection between climate and consumption

But Kyle is especially proud of his work on Portland’s 2015 Climate Action Plan, a roadmap for the City of Portland and Multnomah County to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. This plan builds on previous plans with new actions to advance equity and analysis around the consumption-based carbon inventory. This kind of inventory models global emissions produced when Multnomah County consumers purchase things made in other parts of the world.

The consumption-based inventory is near and dear to Kyle’s heart. Consider many products found in the home: A shirt, cell phone, TV or chair. It’s likely that they were manufactured in Asia where there are far fewer pollution controls. The inventory takes the conversation about reducing emissions a step further than riding bikes and turning down thermostats. It forces us to begin to look at consumer choice by shining a light on the bigger carbon footprint. 

“For decades cities around the world have been tracking emissions produced locally, which is important,” reflected Kyle. “However, when you consider emissions produced in other parts of the world to meet local demand, you have a more thorough analysis of the problem and how we can combat the challenge.”

Kyle was honored to collaborate with David Allaway at Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, who led the work to adapt Oregon’s consumption-based inventory for Multnomah County. 

“I believe there is a role for government to regulate emissions, but ultimately this situation is the result of choices made every day by consumers,” said Kyle. “It comes down to supply and demand. Consumers need to be informed so they can use their buying power to support products and businesses that disclose emissions and work to reduce them across their supply chains.”

A passion for equity

Kyle also serves on the Citywide Equity Committee, working with other City bureaus to dismantle institutional racism and advance equity. “People know I’m an advocate for racial equity. What you might not know is that I’m gay,” he shares. “People ask me why I don’t commit my efforts to gay rights. There are lots of talented gay men and women who work for LGBTQ rights and I honor them, but I feel I have more of an impact using my power as a white male to fight against racial oppression. For me the rationale is simple: we can move mountains when those who reap benefits of unearned privilege join the movements of the oppressed. Similarly, I would call to our straight allies and ask them to stand and do the same for gender and sexual minorities.”

In addition to his work at BPS, Kyle serves on two nonprofit boards — Resolutions NW and the Community Energy Project. He is also enrolled in the Executive Masters of Public Administration at the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University, recently traveling with his cohort to Washington, D.C. to study the national policy process. The trip included meetings with advocacy groups, think tanks, lobbyists, and legislative and federal agency staffers.

Kyle is deeply committed to advancing equity, defending the environment and advancing democracy. In the future, he would like to parlay his experience in local government to work in Federal government. Maybe someday he’ll run for public office. “It would be an honor to serve Oregonians in Congress,” Kyle remarked. BPS is fortunate to have him on our team.