Portland, OR and Multnomah County Global Warming Action Plan
Status: Adopted in April 2001
Global climate change presents one of the foremost threats—economically, socially and environmentally— of the new century. Increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are expected to result in substantially higher temperatures, more frequent intense storms, rising sea levels, and changes in water flows and quality. There is broad agreement in the scientific community that human activities are contributing to these changes, largely by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, manufacture goods, heat our homes, and power our vehicles.
A Local Plan
In 1993 Portland became the first U.S. city to adopt a plan to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Early in 2001 Multnomah County joined these efforts, identifying climate change as a key element in its overall sustainability initiative. Nearly 400 municipal governments worldwide have joined Portland and Multnomah County in adopting climate-change mitigation goals. Together, these communities represent more than seven percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. While the actions of any single municipality can impact only a small fraction of emissions, this collaboration of a large number of urban areas can achieve meaningful reductions.
Portland’s 1993 CO2 reduction strategy established a reduction target of 20 percent below 1990 emissions by 2010. Today, seven years into the City’s original plan, we have far to go. Although impressive achievements in energy efficiency, transportation, recycling, and tree planting have helped reduce per capita emissions, rapid population growth has led to an overall increase in CO2 emissions since 1990 (see Figure 1).
Portland and Multnomah County’s Goal
Largely because of rapid population growth, this plan adopts a more realistic reduction target of 10 percent below 1990 levels. This target is still more aggressive than the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which, though not ratified by the U.S. Senate, sets a national reduction goal of seven percent below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012.
As aggressive as it is, Portland and Multnomah County’s greenhouse gas-reduction goal must be viewed as only the beginning. Reducing emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels will slow the accumulation of greenhouse gases, but the atmospheric concentration of those gases will continue to rise. To stabilize atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases will require a reduction in emissions of 60 to 70 percent from 1990 levels.