I’ve been skimming through the 2015 Climate Action Plan (actually a comment draft) for Portland, Oregon. It’s very readable—full of photos and graphs and bullet points—easy to skim and get the gist: these folks are freaking serious about addressing Climate Change. It’s no wonder; Portland has been at this sort of thing for some time:
“In 1993, Portland was the first U.S. city to create a local action plan for cutting carbon. Portland’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) is a strategy to put Portland and Multnomah County on a path to achieve a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels). The plan builds upon a legacy of forward-thinking climate protection initiatives by the City of Portland and Multnomah County that have resulted in significant total and per person reductions in local carbon emissions.” The City of Portland, Oregon Climate Action Plan
Increasingly, those who have been keeping up with the worldwide Climate Change disaster are realizing that individual actions won’t matter much if they are not organized and guided from a top-down approach. Left to their own, individuals in the aggregate tend not to do the right thing unless it is profitable, convenient, or regulated. I know, this kind of thinking puts libertarians (a strain of selfishness writ large) into a tizzy. But there is so much historical evidence that the unfettered quenching of desires without limits is suicidal on a finite planet that it’s not even funny.
What Portland’s plan does is put their efforts in a historical context, so they can measure their progress. The 2015 plan is one among many. The plan works with state, federal, and worldwide efforts. The plan also demonstrates the need for communities to work together to combat Climate Change, so they are not working against each other—stepping on each other’s efforts.
At the local level, Portland focuses on many of the challenges Climate Change brings to a community:
“Understanding Portland’s Carbon Emissions | Climate Action through Equity |A More Prosperous, Healthy and Equitable Portland |Buildings and Energy |Urban Form and Transportation |Consumption and Solid Waste |Food and Agriculture | Urban Forest, Natural Systems and Carbon Sequestration | Climate Change Preparation |Community Engagement, Outreach and Education |Local Government Operations | Implementation |Climate Action Plan Development Process” 2015 Climate Action Plan Chapters
The most salient points that caught my eye are the need to engage the poor and minority groups who contribute less to the problem, suffer most of the consequences, and are least able to deal with them; the role that transportation and buildings have in spewing out most of the greenhouse gas emissions (which allows for very measureable solutions); the importance of providing more canopy cover and carbon sinks with urban forests; creating a job Mecca with new green technology; and how recycling and solid waste figure into the Climate Change equations. But most important of all is how all these elements of Climate Change fit together and provide a circle of concerns and solutions that connect everyone in the community. You cannot solve Climate Change alone, but you can if everyone is pitching in with you and working from the same plan.
Lovely Warren, Rochester, NY’s mayor, recently announced the finishing up of our Climate Change action plan. Our first. We praise Mayor Warren for planning for this worldwide crisis.
City eyes plan to curb climate change Rochester officials want a concrete plan for the city to have less of an impact on the planet's changing climate. Mayor Lovely Warren submitted legislation to City Council last week to tap a $100,000 state grant and $9,000 in city funds to hire architectural and engineering design firm Bergmann Associates develop a city-wide plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The finished climate action plan would set a target to reduce emissions in Rochester over time and lay out specific ways to meet that goal. (May 1, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
We encourage the mayor to be bold. Besides hiring firms to design and engineer adaptation strategies, we call on the mayor to engage the entire community in this effort to address Climate Change.
We ask the mayor to invite many other groups to the table, including local community leaders, faith leaders, active transportation groups, the media, university leaders, and environmental leaders—who, by the way, just brought in world renowned climate scientist Dr. Hansen to speak to our community during Earth Week 2015 about the certainty of science on the Climate Change crisis.
There is much to be done to get Rochester ready for adaptation to Climate Change and helping to be a part of this worldwide effort. If the public is brought into these climate action discussions, there is a far better chance that an informed and engaged public will support the mayor in most of her efforts to make Rochester climate-change-ready. There’s a far better chance that volunteers will volunteer (like they do for Clean Sweep) knowing their individual efforts are a part of a very big effort.
Getting Rochester’s public transportation and our entire transportation system fixed so it can accommodate more pedestrians, more bicyclists, and more folks on our buses, has a more likely chance to succeed if the public is made a partner in the climate solutions—instead of outsourcing efforts to a small group of experts. (How about selling off the tragedy that is our new transit center and using the proceeds for more bus shelters that are heated, lit, go to all points in the city and county without unnecessarily going downtown?)
Allowing vacant City buildings to be used by volunteers and provide them books, programs, and pamphlets to educate the public on Climate Change adaptation strategies would help the mayor inform a great number of folks who our local media has not reached. Many of the problems Rochester is facing can be not only alleviated, but actually healed, by choreographing much of our efforts towards poverty, jobs, public health, clean water, transportation upgrades, clean air, energy efficiency, and clean energy through the lens of Climate Change—much in the way that Portland has done.
The public must see the City of Rochester addressing Climate Change and that our community is an integral part of the solutions. On Climate Change, leadership is crucial.