Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury speaks before hundreds of supporters at the Central Courthouse Project Topping Out Ceremony.

December 2018

Dear friends and neighbors,

I have always looked forward to fall in Oregon. Growing up in Northeast Portland, my family and I were lucky enough to walk out our front door and watch the changing colors of tree-lined streets in real time.

And contrary to our reputation for bad weather (as well as our inclination to agree with that reputation), it doesn’t really rain here every day. In fact, I would argue that one of the most special things about fall in the Northwest is the occasional clear sky that accentuates the changing of the seasons.

So it was with dismay that I looked out my office window a couple of weeks ago to see the sky dark not with rain clouds but with the smoke from the Camp Fire in Northern California. It was yet another reminder that our future will be fraught with climate-based threats not only to the beauty of our environment, but to our health and even our very way of living.

We don’t need to argue whether climate change is real. We are long passed that point; scientists have been warning us for years, and now even the real-estate market is responding to its impact.  

The sheer scale of climate change demands a coordinated international response. But it must also include practical local measures that will contribute to a collective solution. This means reducing our carbon emissions and taking measures to adapt to a new reality while others work hard towards a global effort.

But the highest priority at the local level should be to identify and acknowledge who is threatened by the consequences of climate change. We have long-known that human-driven environmental impacts, like toxic air and water, disproportionately affect our most vulnerable neighbors. It is up to local governments like Multnomah County to prioritize people of color and low-income households when developing climate-related policy.

So what are we doing locally?

Below, you will find a series of articles about Multnomah County’s current efforts led by John Wasiutynski and our sustainability team. These articles provide up-to-date status reports on the challenge before us, the populations we serve, as well as the actions we have taken to reduce our carbon footprint.

One thing we should all be able to agree on is that climate change poses an unprecedented threat to our community. It is an environmental issue. It is a public health issue. It is a housing issue. It is an equity issue. And it is an issue where none of us have the luxury of opting out. We will all have to work together to face the challenge of climate change.


Deborah Kafoury

Board Vows to Apply Environmental Justice Lens When Crafting Public Policy

Policy analyst Sam Baraso, with the Office of Sustainability, talks about the link between community and the environment

Residents of color have been redlined into neighborhoods near industrial emissions, near major roadways with higher diesel pollution, and in parts of the County with fewer sidewalks and less frequent public transportation.

The Board of Commissioners on Thursday committed to improving environmental health for historically marginalized residents and directed the Office of Sustainability and the Health Department’s Environmental Health Division to develop and propose policies that promote environmental justice.

Read more here

Multnomah County, City of Portland Commit to Reducing Diesel Emissions on Construction Sites

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and the Portland City Council passed parallel resolutions Thursday committing to establish a Clean Air Construction Procurement Standard. The Standard would require equipment used on City and County construction projects to dramatically reduce emissions from older diesel engines.

“Some issues seem daunting,” County Chair Deborah Kafoury said Thursday. “Some are impossible for us to solve on our own. This is a chance where we can make a difference. We can control air quality in our community.

Read more here.

Multnomah County Carbon Footprint Drops 61%

Multnomah County is reducing its carbon footprint and utility costs, according to the  2018 Resource Conservation Report that staff from the county’s Office of Sustainability presented to the Multnomah County Board of County Commissioners on November 1st.

The Resource Conservation Report is an annual update to the Board on the County’s progress toward Board-adopted goals. The Climate Action Plan, for example, sets goals around greenhouse gas reduction and recycling for county operations, and the 100% by 2050 Renewable Energy goal calls on the County to meet energy needs with renewable sources of energy.

Read more here.

Sweeping Study Warns of Dire Consequences if World Leaders Don’t Curb Carbon Drastically

Climate change has subjected Oregon’s forests to ever longer wildfire seasons and deprives the state’s peaks from snowpack that feeds rivers and lakes and reservoirs.

According to a report released Oct. 8, 2018 by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the health and environmental impacts will be increasingly dire if global temperatures rise 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels; and that’s likely to happen by 2040 if world leaders don’t take immediate and drastic action.

Human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by nearly half from 2010 levels by 2030 to avoid catastrophic damage, the report, drafted by 91 scientists and reviewed by experts from 40 countries, determined.

Read more here.

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