Portland is a city of firsts: First U.S. city to replace a waterfront highway with a park; bring back the modern streetcar; adopt the Kyoto climate protocols; enact a green building policy. Portland has the highest bike ridership in the country, and was an inaugural member of C40, a league of cities banning together to fight climate change. Portland adopted a Climate Action Plan in 1993, a decade before most cities had even begun to grapple with those issues.
In the wake of invitations from the Pope and the President to attend climate-related conferences at the Vatican and at the White House, Mayor Charlie Hales has reaffirmed Portland’s commitment to climate action, as well as to ensuring opportunity for all Portlanders.
“As the world faces the reality of climate change, we must continue to be a trailblazer,” Mayor Hales says. “We can’t just be green, we must be green and equitable at the same time. Ensuring access to the tools that make Portland a worldwide leader in sustainability will not only reduce carbon emissions, it will also help us build a Portland that is affordable, livable and equitable — a City of Opportunity.”
Here is a recap of the recent steps Portland has taken to act on climate [updated Sept. 24 with divestment action]:
> Climate Action Plan update: In June City Council passed updates to the Climate Action Plan, which lays out ambitious new goals and emphasizes equitable resources — serving low-income households and communities of color in order to advance equity through climate action efforts.
> Carbon Emissions Reduction resolution: City Council in June passed a resolution directing City bureaus to implement policies and programs to keep Portland on a path of reducing local carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
> Green Bonds resolution: City Council in June passed a resolution to establish the City's interest in exploring “green bonds” and other climate-related tools to finance infrastructure projects that have environmental impacts, encouraging environmental best practices in capital projects.
> Energy Performance Benchmarking policy: City Council in April passed Mayor Hales’ proposal to require large commercial buildings — 20,000 square feet and larger — to track energy performance, calculate energy use and report to the city. The goal is to reduce energy costs for building owners and carbon emissions for the city, among Mayor Hales’ priorities to reduce Portland’s carbon footprint.
> City of Portland energy from renewable sources: Currently City of Portland operations get nearly 100 percent of power from renewable sources — solar, biogas, in-pipe microhydro, etc. The goal is to achieve 100 percent renewable energy for city operations.
> Solar at City buildings: Currently the City of Portland generates 540,869 kilowatt hours from solar panels at 10 of its sites. The goal is to generate 1 million kilowatt hours with solar panels across City facilities.
> LED street lights: The City of Portland has converted more than 20,000 street lights to LED, saving about $100,000 per month and nearly $1.5 million per year. The goal is to transition all 55,000 of Portland’s streetlights by the end of 2016.
> Clean diesel: The City of Portland’s entire fleet uses clean diesel — no more of the old, dirty diesel engines. The goal is to make clean diesel engine conversions more accessible to minority- and women-owned and emerging small businesses, which face hurdles to the investment.
> Electric vehicles: The City of Portland plans to add to its fleet 40 electric vehicles, making 20 percent of the City’s sedans electric by 2020.
> Fossil fuel disinvestment: City Council on Sept. 24 approved a policy placed the top 200 fossil fuel companies on the City of Portland’s do-not-buy list for direct investment of City funds. The City will be fully divested from those companies by March 2018. Read the resolution.
> Establish fossil fuel infrastructure policy: Mayor Hales proposed one of the most aggressive fossil fuel export resolutions in the nation, and it was approved by City Council in November. The resolution opposes the expansion of infrastructure whose primary purpose is transporting or storing fossil fuels in or through Portland or the city's adjacent waterways.