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Mayor Wheeler wants your feedback on his ‘Climate Emergency’ declaration


Time to make some hard choices about “fossil fuel infrastructure.”
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler released a draft version of his Climate Emergency Declaration (PDF) yesterday. The document sets new goals for carbon emission reduction and it issues a call-to-arms for actions to address climate change impacts with an emphasis on a just transition for “frontline communities” (which are defined as, “Black and Indigenous people, communities of color”.)

Wheeler’s cover letter to the official declaration takes on an urgent tone: “We must make the right decisions now to bend the curve to protect our communities and save our planet,” he writes. “2020 is our year for putting the policies, strategies and actions in place that will aggressively reduce our carbon emissions.”

The transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in our region and Wheeler’s declaration mentions transportation-related policies several times. Later today, Wheeler and his council colleagues will consider the Rose Lane Project, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s plan to allocate more road space to transit vehicles which in many ways perfectly embodies the type of actions he calls for in the declaration.

Beyond the transportation elements (see below), the declaration is notable for a new carbon emissions reduction target. Instead of an 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050 with an interim goal of 40% reduction by 2030, Wheeler wants to update Portland’s Climate Action Plan with a target of at least 50% reduction and net-zero emissions before 2050.

Here are the transportation-related parts of the 5-page declaration:

Whereas (section that sets the table for the issue)…

strategies and programs that keep frontline communities – including businesses and cultural institutions – from displacement is a significant climate change mitigation strategy. As displacement of frontline communities occurs, vehicle miles traveled increase as members seek to maintain their community or are forced to lose it altogether.

transportation emissions are increasing – currently eight percent over 1990 levels, and 14% over their lowest levels in 2012 – and Portland has experienced year-over-year increases in transportation emissions for the past five years, with transportation emissions growing faster than population growth over the same period; and

Therefore, let it be resolved (the declaration section that says what we will do about it)…

Portland will involve youth in the development of a proposed climate test – such as a carbon fee or an internal price on carbon – to ensure City bureaus are making informed climate-friendly decisions, particularly for major capital investments and high-carbon-impact decisions, such as fuel and vehicle purchases; and…

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the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Portland Bureau of Transportation will identify where and how zoning changes and transportation investments to increase compact development can have the greatest impact on carbon reduction and equitable development outcomes overall…

Portland will adopt new policies and development standards to further prevent expansion of new fossil fuel infrastructure, reduce fossil fuel consumption and reduce risk to the community and environment…

Portland will prioritize and advance policies and investments to reduce carbon emissions from the building and transportation sectors – the two largest contributors to local carbon emissions – that put us on a path to reach net-zero carbon before 2050…

Portland will work with regional partners to develop and implement programs, projects and policies that reduce vehicle miles traveled, increase active transportation mode share, and accelerate the transition to clean, renewable transportation fuels, including electricity and the infrastructure to support electric vehicles, as well as work with TriMet to secure ongoing funding for a free youth transit pass…

Wheeler also said yesterday he’s directed all city bureaus to make climate change a key priority in their upcoming budget proposals.

He wants community feedback on the proposal no later than 5:00 pm on March 16th. You can submit your comments through the online comment form or call his office at 503-823-3579. The declaration will be available to read and staff will be on-hand to answer questions at the City’s Fix-It Fair event at Floyd Light Middle School on Saturday, February 29th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Wheeler plans to have the final resolution up for adoption by City Council on April 22, 2020 (Earth Day).

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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