History of leadership
The work of the Climate Policy and Program team builds on Portland’s path-breaking history as a leader among the global community fighting climate change. Portland has been working to address climate change for nearly 30 years and was the first city in the United States to draft a carbon reduction strategy.
Today, BPS's Climate Policy and Program team develops policies, runs programs, and conducts research and analysis that aim to rapidly decarbonize Portland, while ensuring that our community members most impacted by the climate crisis have power in the policy process. BPS believes that the scientific questions about how to decarbonize have been answered. It is now time to have the harder policy conversations about racial, social, and economic implications of who benefits and who is burdened as we transition away from a fossil fuel-driven economy. The City’s priorities for achieving decarbonization and resilience are outlined in Portland’s 2022-2025 Climate Emergency Workplan, which guides the work of the Climate Policy and Program team.
How we address carbon emissions
Within Climate Policy and Programs are a range of ongoing programs (the result of policies adopted by City Council in the past) and several policy development initiatives.
These are grouped by the sectors from which carbon is produced: electricity, buildings, transportation, and industry.
This work supports and drives toward the City’s climate goals, namely two key targets:
- By 2030, reducing carbon emissions 50% or more, compared to 1990 levels.
- By 2050, reducing carbon emissions to net-zero.
100 percent clean electricity
In 2020, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 2021, 100% Clean Energy for All. The legislation enables cities to take a much more active role in determining what is in our electricity supply and insuring that new infrastructure is developed in alignment with our values.
Implementing the communitywide clean electricity provisions of the law would dramatically advance Portland's progress toward 2030 carbon reduction goals. It also is an opportunity to explore the connections between clean energy infrastructure and community benefits.
BPS staff will be working with Multnomah County Office of Sustainability, community-based and culturally-specific organizations, Portland General Electric, and Pacific Power to explore and evaluate the costs and benefits of the program over the next couple of years.
This is a new policy concept under development. Climate and health standards are being created — through engaging with Black, Indigenous and people of color; renters; and commercial and multifamily property owners — to ensure that renters live in healthy, resilient, and safe buildings and that large commercial buildings help Portland achieve its goals for reduced carbon emissions.
To reduce energy costs and carbon emissions for commercial buildings in Portland, commercial buildings 20,000 square feet and larger must track building energy performance and report this information annually.
To meet Portland’s goals for reducing carbon emissions, single-family homes must become more energy efficient. To accelerate this shift, the City requires sellers of most single-family homes in Portland to obtain and disclose a Home Energy Report at time of sale that estimates the energy-related use, associated costs, and cost-effective solutions to improve the home’s efficiency.
To ensure that valuable materials are salvaged for reuse instead of crushed and landfilled, Portland requires certain projects seeking a demolition permit to deconstruct older buildings, rather than mechanically demolish them.
Embodied carbon is a climate change issue involving GHG emissions from the consumption of goods, building materials and food. Building materials account for 13% of annual global emissions, so reducing embodied carbon in the built environment is a priority to reach net-zero carbon by 2050.
Greater use of zero-emission electric vehicles instead of fossil-fueled cars is critical to meeting Portland’s goals for reducing carbon emissions. Now in the proposal stage, this project would amend Portland zoning codes to require all new multi-dwelling and mixed use development with five or more units — that include onsite parking — to provide EV-ready charging infrastructure.
In December 2022, City Council unanimously adopted amendments to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which further reduces dependence on fossil fuels by requiring Portland fuel retailers to sell blends of biofuels. BPS is now writing the administrative rules to support the new code. Read the announcement.
In 2020-21, stakeholders from the industrial sector requested assistance in transitioning to be decarbonized, clean, circular, and inclusive. Decarbonizing this sector is complex, since many industrial processes require high temperatures that cannot be achieved with electrification. The clean industry initiative will identify strategies to support the sector in meeting climate goals and implementing circular economy practices.
We are excited to be working more intentionally with industry to co-create pathways for decarbonization and circular industrial practices that can reduce waste, improve air quality, and create inclusive economic opportunities for Portlanders that are on the frontlines of climate change.
Other programs and projects
The City of Portland and Multnomah County are working to develop an ordinance that would help Portland transition away from gas leaf blowers (GLBs) to electric leaf blowers. Switching from gas to electric equipment will benefit our local environment and improve quality of life for workers and neighbors.
Housed within BPS — but resourced and staffed separately from the BPS Climate Policy and Program team — The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund (PCEF) is building, from scratch, a historic program that centers equity in climate action. Originating as an initiative approved by 65% of Portland voters in November 2018, the fund provides a consistent, long-term revenue source to fund climate action that advances racial and social justice. Find more information about PCEF, including grant funding opportunities, on the program website.
This program helps City bureaus reduce carbon emissions, save money, and create a healthier, more equitable workplace through technical assistance and advocacy.
The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability prioritizes efforts to reduce global carbon emissions from the local consumption of goods and services. Our work focuses on partnering with the community to help all Portland residents and local businesses thrive within the resource limits of the planet.