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From BPS Director Susan Anderson: 2015 Climate Action Plan to guide City of Portland for next five years

Thanks to a unanimous City Council vote in June, we have a new Climate Action Plan to guide the carbon reduction efforts of the City of Portland, our local businesses and community partners for the next five years. This plan provides an integrated response to the intertwined challenges of climate change, social equity, economic volatility, degraded natural systems, and the rising cost of living for all Portland residents and businesses.

The 2015 Climate Action Plan updates Portland's roadmap for the community to achieve an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, with an interim goal of a 40 percent reduction by 2030.  In 1993, Portland became the first city in the United States to adopt a local plan to reduce carbon pollution.  Over the years, the goals of the plan have become reality with sustained efforts by businesses, public agencies and individuals producing results.

Since 1990, total local carbon emissions have declined by 14 percent, while total U.S. emissions have increased by six percent!  During this same time, our population grew by more than 160,000 people, and we added more than 75,000 more jobs — clearly we are doing more with less and moving in the right direction. Read “Portland: A City of Firsts on Climate Action.” 

The 2015 Climate Action Plan features many ambitious new strategies and actions to reduce Portland's carbon footprint.  I want to tell you about two new elements that make the plan unique:

Advancing equity. The 2015 Climate Action Plan was developed with careful thought to how all Portlanders can access the benefits of carbon reduction efforts.  This plan will result in many benefits, such as a stronger economy, new jobs, lower energy bills, transportation improvements and a cleaner environment.  Efforts should ensure that all residents, and especially those from under-served and under-represented communities, share in the economic, environmental and health benefits related to reducing carbon pollution.

Exploring consumer choice.  The new Climate Action Plan includes an inventory of the carbon emissions associated with the goods and services we buy that are produced elsewhere, outside of Multnomah County.  This is called a consumption-based inventory. It considers the full lifecycle of goods and services from production to transportation, to wholesale and retail sales, to use and disposal.

This new look at where emissions come from is important.  It turns out that the "stuff" that we buy from other states and from around the world — like televisions, clothes, cars and food — has a major impact on global carbon emissions.  This insight can help each of us make better informed choices and provides us with a wide range of opportunities to reduce carbon pollution internationally by carefully considering our purchasing choices here at home.

Cities around the world look to Portland for our leadership and best practices. Mayor Hales talked recently with OPB's Think Out Loud program about his visit to the Vatican for Pope Francis' historic summit on climate change and modern slavery — the first time the Vatican has gathered local leaders, in order to mobilize grassroots climate action. 

"Cities are the place where innovation happens," Mayor Hales said. "This network of cities is really beginning to have an impact on the global discussion about climate change."

As we look back on our original Climate Action Plan from the early 90's, we can see that it has resulted in significant energy and dollar savings, better air quality, a healthier environment, new jobs and less carbon pollution.  However, we have a long way to go to get to an 80 percent reduction.  As the magnitude of climate change has become more clear and immediate, so too has the need for an even more ambitious response.

Climate change is an issue that is integrated into every aspect of our work and daily lives.  The challenge will not be met by government programs in isolation. Every family, every business and institution must do their part.  The 2015 Climate Action Plan provides us with a roadmap that will result in a healthier, more equitable, resilient, prosperous and affordable community.

Understanding your carbon footprint and taking action

Visit our Climate Action Now infographic to understand the most important actions that will reduce your carbon footprint. 

Return to for regular tips that cover the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home.


Susan Anderson, Director

City of Portland

Bureau of Planning and Sustainability