Portland City council has approved the city’s Climate Emergency Workplan which guides Portland’s action against climate change for the next three years.
“The low hanging fruit is gone,” said Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) director Donnie Oliveira. “The next policy decisions and initiatives we take as a city are not going to be easy.”
While some environmental organisations have praised the new initiative, some critics have argued that the plan is just aspirational words without any concrete metrics.
Portland leaders declared a climate emergency in 2020, setting a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The Climate Emergency Workplan, created by BPS, acts as a roadmap toward those goals over the next three years.
According to the work plan, the city should focus on efforts that reduce carbon from various industry sectors and activities, sequester carbon through trees and green spaces, and build resilience against the impacts of climate change.
The plan offers 43 suggested actions that would help Portland lower its carbon emissions and increase its climate resiliency, ranging from projects that are already in progress to ideas with no timeline or funding plan.
Ongoing projects include shifting the city’s energy supply to completely renewable resources by 2030 in line with state goals, Portland Clean Energy Fund grant projects, and preventing food waste through the city’s composting service.
If the priorities identified in the plan are addressed within the next three years, BPS staff predict that Portland could meet its 2030 carbon reduction goals.
Some Extinction Rebellion members believe the plan is incomplete because it does not have the metrics other than the long-term emissions reductions goals or required timelines for when the actions need to be completed, other than existing state and federal deadlines.
“It’s like, ‘Trust us, we’ll get it done,’” Extinction Rebellion member Lynn Handlin said. “They haven’t done enough to earn our trust.”
During a presentation of the plan to city councilors in July, BPS director Donnie Oliveira stressed that it is time for the city to stop getting stuck in the planning phase of addressing the climate crisis, and that the plan is the legwork required to “embark on action.”
“While we heard loud and clear that there are specifics that are missing, it would have been premature to lay out those specifics, because each action requires and deserves a really thorough process to include stakeholders, appropriate allocation of resources, the long-term investments in terms of capitol, and, frankly, making sure we have all of the people at the table needed to make the highest and best-informed decisions,” Oliveira said.