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Portland City Council Adopts New Climate Action Plan


June 24, 2015

Eden Dabbs

Portland City Council Adopts New Climate Action Plan

New plan emphasizes equity and includes a new methodology for measuring carbon emissions from consumer choices.

Portland, Ore. —  Today, Portland City Council adopted the joint City of Portland and Multnomah County 2015 Climate Action Plan, strengthening local efforts to achieve an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. The 2015 Climate Action Plan builds on Portland’s 20+ year legacy of climate action with ambitious new policies and fresh research on consumer choices. Community leaders serving low-income households and communities of color were engaged to help ensure that all Portlanders benefit from the City and County’s climate action efforts.

Portland was the first city in the United States to adopt a local plan to cut carbon, and sustained efforts by businesses, public agencies and individuals are producing results. While total carbon emissions in the US are up 7 percent since 1990, Portland has cut total local emissions by 14 percent, despite adding 170,000 more people and 75,000 more jobs over the same time period. 

"Cities are a key part of the solution to climate change,” Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said. “Equity is a key factor. As we reduce carbon, it is imperative that we ensure that the benefits and opportunities that come along are shared with every part of Portland. Especially with people who haven’t benefited in the past. This plan makes important commitments to advancing equity while we address climate change.”

“We all bear the costs of climate change, but seniors, children, the homeless and communities of color are impacted the most.” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. “Worsening air quality, flooding and heat waves affect our health and well-being, and making our community climate resilient is a vital part of doing our job.”

“Thanks to the efforts of Portland residents, businesses and organizations who have worked to reduce their carbon footprint, local carbon emissions are down 35 percent per person,” said City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Director Susan Anderson. “This is promising progress, and we need to keep up the momentum to reach Portland’s climate goals.”

As global leaders grapple with the concerns and opportunities the changing climate presents, Portland has become an international destination for planners and decision-makers seeking proven strategies for climate action. Since 2010, more than 160 delegations from around the world have come to Portland to speak with business and government leaders to understand how Portland has lowered emissions while creating jobs, welcoming new residents and creating a more livable community. Portland and Multnomah County now have 12,000 clean tech jobs, an increase of 25 percent in the last 15 years.

Accomplishments and New Action

  • This summer TriMet will open Tilikum Crossing: Bridge of the People, the largest bridge in the United States to carry people on transit, bikes and on foot, but no cars. To accommodate the potential for higher river levels from climate change, the height of the bridge above the water was increased. The new plan calls for continued investments that expand active transportation options throughout Portland and ensure those infrastructure investments are resilient to the impacts of climate change. 
  • Over the last five years, Portland residents have installed more than 2,000 solar systems and more than 2,000 homeowners have insulated their houses. The new plan calls for doubling solar installations through efforts like community solar and continuing to weatherize homes at a faster rate than ever.
  • Recently the Portland City Council adopted an energy tracking and reporting policy for large commercial buildings. The City is working with building owners and managers to access resources and technologies to improve the energy performance of Portland’s largest 1,000 commercial buildings.
  • Recent changes to garbage and composting service have led to a 36 percent reduction in garbage headed to the landfill. Residential bills are flat or down three years in a row, while Portland’s recycling rate has reached 70 percent, one of the highest in the nation. The proposed draft focuses on boosting food scrap recover and multifamily recycling to raise those numbers even higher.

Engaging communities to advance equity

Portland is changing. More than half of the students in Portland Public Schools, for example, are people of color. Low-income communities and people of color in Multnomah County are likely to experience the impacts of climate change more acutely, including poor air quality and heat waves.

At the same time, these communities historically have not had the same access to the kinds of services and infrastructure that make low-carbon choices easier and affordable, such as frequent transit service and adequate sidewalks in East Portland or energy efficiency programs that benefit renters. From transportation investments and economic opportunities to tree plantings and policy engagement, the 2015 plan makes those actions that reduce disparities and ensure that under-served and under-represented communities share in the benefits of climate action work a priority.

Exploring what we consume

For the first time, the Climate Action Plan includes a consumption-based inventory, tallying carbon emissions associated with all of the goods and services that are produced elsewhere and consumed in Multnomah County. This inventory considers carbon emissions from the full lifecycle of goods and services, including production, transportation, wholesale and retail, use and disposal. Global carbon emissions as a result of local consumer demand are larger than the volume of emissions produced locally.

The addition of the consumption-based inventory offers insight into a wider range of opportunities to reduce carbon. Residents, for example, can shift purchases toward goods that are durable and repairable. Businesses have opportunities throughout their supply chains to choose lower-carbon options, and new business models like car-sharing are emerging to make it easier to borrow, repair and reuse everyday goods.

Next Steps

Tomorrow, June 25, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners will vote on adopting the plan. Find a copy of the plan and follow the progress at

Learn more about how to take action at