Did you know that in 1993, Portland became the first local government in the United States to adopt a plan to reduce carbon emissions? Then, in 2001, Multnomah County joined Portland to adopt a joint plan, the Local Action Plan on Global Warming, which set a goal of reducing carbon emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2010.
On a per-person basis, Portlanders drive fewer miles, burn less gasoline and use less energy to run their homes than we did in 1990. Also since 1990, Portland’s recycling rate has tripled, the number of bicyclists crossing bridges has increased five-fold, and bus ridership has doubled.
Because of our collective actions, Portland has made substantial progress in carrying out the goal of the Local Action Plan on Global Warming to reduce our carbon emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. As the graphic shows, local emissions peaked in 2000 at 15 percent over 1990 levels; by 2008, emissions had fallen below 1990 levels, despite rapid population and economic growth. On a per-capita basis, local emissions have fallen by 19 percent since 1990. Nationally, total carbon emissions in the U.S. are 13 percent above 1990 levels, and per-capita emissions have decreased about six percent.
From this perspective, Portland is well ahead of the nation, but local achievements also underscore the magnitude of the challenge ahead. Even in Portland, where “climate friendly” decisions, policies and programs have prevailed over the past 20 years, emissions have only just returned to 1990 levels. The good and sound practices to date clearly are inadequate for the challenges of climate change that must be addressed in the coming decades.
Recognizing this, the City of Portland and Multnomah County adopted the 2009 Climate Action Plan, a three-year plan to put Portland on a path to achieve a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Since its adoption, Portland has been working aggressively to make progress on the nearly 100 actions outlined in the Climate Action Plan.