Portland climate leaders explore clean industry innovations with the Danes

News Article
Group photo with approx 30 people standing in field with industrial towers in background
Through a knowledge exchange, Portland and Danish business and climate leaders are advancing climate solutions both here and abroad. Photo credit: Atticus Wittenmeier, We All Rise Consulting

In June 2022, a group of Portland leaders from government, business and industry, community organizations, and climate and labor organizations traveled to Denmark as part of a “knowledge exchange.” The tour was organized by the Center for Sustainable Infrastructure and co-sponsored by the City of Portland and the Portland Business Alliance.

Denmark is widely recognized as a leader in climate action and innovation, and the Portland delegation was eager to learn about clean industry solutions they could bring home. The Portland delegation included Commissioner Carmen Rubio and staff, BPS Director Donnie Oliveira, Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, Metro Councilor Duncan Hwang, representatives of industrial businesses, and local climate and community leaders.

Portland is also seen as a global leader in climate, and the delegation was pleased to share local lessons with the Danes. They also learned how the Danish culture of collaboration has shaped the Danes’ approach to climate action. They toured facilities dedicated to industrial symbiosis and sustainable power production; met with scientists, academics, and government officials; and perhaps most importantly, got to know each other better and came home ready to collaborate.

Many of the lessons learned from the Danish visit were about technologies that Portland’s industrial businesses may be able to adopt to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. For instance, the Danes’ advanced use of renewable energy and innovative ways of capturing and repurposing waste in their industrial sector inspired the Portland delegates with the facilities they saw.

Equally important were the lessons learned about collaboration and the need to articulate a common goal. The Danish people, government, and business community are in sync about the need for aggressive and inclusive climate action. They share a vision for the future and understand that each stakeholder group will play a part in the energy transition.

Here in Portland …

In the past, BPS’s climate action has focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, transportation, and the power grid ― and not much on the industrial sector. But the Climate Emergency Declaration passed in 2020 committed the City to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. And the more recently adopted Climate Emergency Workplan includes a section on industrial emissions from manufacturing, processing and materials management.

Since late 2020, BPS has been working with industrial businesses, environmental organizations, and other community partners to figure out what the transition to clean energy will look like for the industrial sector. Decarbonizing industry is a distinct challenge for several reasons:

  • Industrial emissions can be hard to reduce because a business may need custom or specialized equipment.
  • Industrial processes may require significant raw materials or high temperatures that cannot be achieved through electrification.
  • Businesses may not have the financial resources or knowledge to make a change.
  • And in some cases, the technology needed to transition industry to clean energy is not widely available yet.

But industry is vital to Portland’s economy, offering good, family-wage jobs that don’t require a college degree. So supporting industrial businesses in the clean energy transition is not only important for the climate; it’s important to our community as well.

When the Danes came

This past October, a small group of Danish leaders traveled to Portland to continue the knowledge exchange. The Portland delegation hosted a weeklong series of events focused on clean industry, including a City Council work session (“The best work session in two years,” said Commissioner Dan Ryan), a tour of industrial and community sites, sessions with diverse stakeholder groups, and time to build relationships and discuss next steps for clean industry in Portland.

The Danish visitors reiterated the need for a common goal and collaboration between government, business, and community, and the Denmark-Portland knowledge exchange wrapped with a much better understanding of industrial climate solutions and a strong commitment to collaboration.

What’s next for Portland’s clean industry initiative?

Between now and June 2023, BPS staff are working with a consultant team and stakeholders to create a Clean Industry Assessment and Roadmap. The assessment will describe the industrial sector’s current conditions regarding carbon emissions, waste, and community benefits. It will also identify lessons from clean industry hubs around the world and present potential policy and finance tools to support transitioning industrial businesses to cleaner and more inclusive practices. The findings from the assessment will be used to develop a roadmap for clean industry.

At the heart of this work is a commitment to climate justice, equity, and inclusion in the industrial sector, and our clean industry efforts are rooted in the principles of a just transition. We look forward to sharing our findings and next steps this summer.


Sonrisa Cooper

Sustainable Economy and Just Transition Analyst

Janet Hammer

Clean Industry Assessment and Roadmap Lead