City of Portland and Multnomah County leaders vowed on April 10 to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. The goal is to meet the community's electricity needs from renewable sources by 2035 and shift all remaining energy sources to renewables in the 15 years after. The City of Portland currently powers all of its operations with renewable energy and starting in 2018, Multnomah County will purchase green energy to meet its operational needs.
The announcement places the Portland-metro region alongside 25 other cities that have committed to 100 percent renewables, including Salt Lake City and San Diego. Nearly 90 major U.S. companies have also committed.
Counties and cities have to lead on climate change because federal leaders are delaying or abdicating facing what is one of the most serious problems underway. Already, 2015 was the warmest 2015 was the warmest year on record in Oregon; this past winter was the wettest winter on record and February was the wettest February on record, said Chair Deborah Kafoury. The harm is hitting hardest on people who can't escape heat, storms and poor air quality.
“This is a pledge to our children’s future,’’ said Chair Kafoury. “100 percent renewables means a future with cleaner air, a stable climate and more jobs and economic opportunity.’’
Community gathers at reclaimed gas station.
“It gives me a lot of hope that the leaders of my community are promising today to drastically reduce our community’s carbon emissions,’’ Jeremy Clark said. “Keeping our climate sustainable is the most important issue for the success of my generation. So, if you keep your promises made today, then in 20 - 30 years, you can say to your children and grandchildren, “Together, we kept your future bright.”
Getting to 100 percent renewables
Steps in the transition include fostering Portland-area firms that produce low-carbon and environmental goods and services; moving the City of Portland fleet to electric; supporting the City and County work on the Climate Action Plan and resisting federal policy changes that increase carbon emissions.Portland has been working on climate change since it became the first city in the United States to adopt a carbon reduction strategy in 1993. Since then, per capita carbon emissions have dropped 40 percent and overall emissions 21 percent below 1990 levels. The far-sighted policies of prioritizing climate change has paid off economically. According to a new analysis by the Portland Development Commission, the region has added 47,0000 clean tech jobs. The expanding urban tree canopy and natural areas, and major public works project like the car-free Tillikum Crossing, boost health and livability and make Portland a global destination.
Commissioner Pederson said during last year’s legislative session, she worked with environmental advocates, public health groups and companies like PGE and Pacific Power, to pass a clean energy bill that will phase out the use of coal generated electricity by 2030 and double down on our commitment to clean energy. The bill requires our large utilities to supply at least half of their electricity from renewable sources by 2040.
“Combined with Oregon's existing hydroelectric base, that means the state will be on track for an electricity system that's 70 to 90 percent carbon-free by that date. This pioneering legislation will make Oregon's energy among the cleanest in the country.”
You can watch a clip of Commissioner Vega Pederson: https://youtu.be/PS_VQ-f1iFU
Economic impacts grow with green
Bobby Lee, director of Economic Development at the Portland Development Commission said that Portland has been part of a C40 project with New York, Vancouver, and London to quantify low carbon economies and the results are “unequivocally positive.”“The analysis clearly shows there is no either/or choice when it comes to climate policy and the economy, ’’ Lee said. “Portland’s climate leadership has created one of its largest sectors and from previous analysis, we know that this sector is rich with middle wage and quality jobs.’’
“Getting our community to 100 percent renewable energy is a BIG goal,’’ said Mayor Ted Wheeler. “ And while it is absolutely ambitious, it is a goal that we share with Nike, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Google, GM, Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and Walmart. We have a responsibility to lead this effort in Oregon.’’ Mayor Wheeler said he is hoping the goals will spark a much broader partnership from utilities to community members.
Climate change poses enormous challenges not just for Portland, but for the entire planet. Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said. "The scientific consensus has been clear for decades: we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, say no to new fossil fuel infrastructure, and change course toward clean, safe, renewable energy. Nearly every sector of society -- except those industries whose financial interests are threatened -- knows that we must change course. Each minute we delay our exodus from the fossil fuel economy, we burden young people and future generations with ever mounting risks and an increasing likelihood of total catastrophe>"
All said it will take the entire community to change the status quo.
“We don’t succeed on climate change by government action alone,’’ Mayor Wheeler said. “The real heroic work needs to happen by those in businesses, organizations and households. Ultimately, that is how we succeed.’’